Labs ex­plore ways of killing malaria in liver

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - 25 -

In the hunt for more ef­fec­tive weapons against malaria, in­ter­na­tional re­searchers say they are ex­plor­ing a path­way that has until now been lit­tle stud­ied — killing par­a­sites in the liver, be­fore the ill­ness emerges.

“It's very dif­fi­cult to work on the liver stage,” said El­iz­a­beth Winzeler, pro­fes­sor of phar­ma­col­ogy and drug dis­cov­ery at Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia San Diego School of Medicine.

“We have tra­di­tion­ally looked for medicines that will cure malaria.”

For the lat­est re­search, pub­lished in the jour­nal sci­en­tists dis­sected hun­dreds of thou­sands of mosquitoes to re­move par­a­sites in­side them.

Ev­ery par­a­site was iso­lated in a tube and treated with a chem­i­cal com­pound — 500,000 ex­per­i­ments in all.

Re­searchers found that cer­tain mol­e­cules were able to kill the par­a­sites.

Af­ter around six years of work, 631 can­di­date mol­e­cules for a chem­i­cal vac­cine have been iden­ti­fied — a nor­mal vac­cine that would al­low the body to make an­ti­bod­ies.

“If you could find a drug that you give on one day at one time that will kill all the malaria par­a­sites in the per­son, both in the liver and in the blood­stream, and last for three to six months. Yeah, that'd be super but there is no drug like that,” said Larry Slutsker, the leader of PATH'S Malaria and Ne­glected Trop­i­cal Dis­eases pro­grammes.

Re­duc­ing the num­ber of doses is cru­cial. That's be­cause many med­i­ca­tions avail­able must be taken over three days, said David Reddy, CEO of Medicines for Malaria Ven­tures.

But of­ten, af­ter the first dose, a child be­gins to feel bet­ter and the fever lessens. Par­ents then keep the other two doses in case an­other of their chil­dren falls ill.

“That has two im­pacts. First the child does not get cured prop­erly and se­condly it builds drug re­sis­tance,” Reddy said.

A worker at the En­to­mol­o­gist Re­search Cen­tre takes a mos­quito to an­a­lyse it for the pres­ence of malaria par­a­site in Obuasi, Ashanti Re­gion in Ghana. For the lat­est re­search, US sci­en­tists dis­sected thou­sands of mosquitoes to re­move par­a­sites.

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