Washington: In a major breakthrough against fighting malaria, researchers have discovered a new technique to halt the multiplying process of malaria parasites.
A new study shows that blocking the activity of an enzyme, called NMT, in the most common malaria parasite prevents mice from showing symptoms and extends their lifespan.
The new study shows that NMT is involved in a wide range of essential processes in the parasite cell, including the production of proteins that enable malaria to be transmitted between humans and mosquitoes, and proteins that enable malaria to cause long-term infection.
The researchers have tested a handful of molecules that block the activity of NMT in the parasite living inside human red blood cells, and in mice, but further refinement will be needed before a treatment is ready to be tested in humans.
Dr Ed Tate, from the Department of Chemistry at Imperial College London, who led the project, said that the drug situation for malaria is becoming very serious and resistance is emerging fast, which can turn into a huge problem in the future.
Tate asserted that finding an enzyme that can be targeted effectively in malaria can be a big challenge and their study shows not only why NMT is essential for a wide range of important processes in the parasite, but also how they can design molecules that stop it from working during infection.
It has so many functions that they believe blocking it could be effective at preventing long-term disease and transmission, in addition to treating acute malaria, Tate added.
The team is working to design molecules that target NMT more potently, and hope to start clinical trials of potential treatments within four years.
The study is published in the journal Nature Chemistry.