Labs explore ways of killing malaria in liver
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.