New one-dose malaria drug discovered

Last Updated: Sep 02, 2010, 00:00 AM IST

Washington: Researchers have discovered a
promising new malaria drug with the potential to treat
resistant strains of the deadly disease in a single dose,
according to a study published today in the journal Science.

The drug could be ready for clinical trials as soon as
later this year and appears to be more potent than currently
used drugs, researchers said.

"We`re very excited by the new compound," said study
author Elizabeth Winzeler, a professor at the Scripps Research
Institute and member of the Genomics Institute of the Novartis
Research Foundation.

"It has a lot of encouraging features as a drug
candidate, including an attractive safety profile and
potential treatment in a single oral dose."

Current treatment methods require patients to take
drugs between one and four times daily for three to seven
days. Reducing the treatment to a single dose leaves less
opportunity for the parasites to develop a resistance to the
drug, researchers said.

There were approximately 247 million cases of malaria
in 2008 which caused nearly one million deaths, mostly among
young children in Africa, according to the World Health
Organization.

Malaria is contracted when people are bitten by
mosquitoes infected with a parasite called Palsmodium.

It causes fever and vomiting and can quickly become
life-threatening by disrupting the blood supply to vital
organs.

The parasites have developed resistance to a number of
malaria medications in many parts of the world and it has been
more than a decade since a new class of malaria drugs began to
be widely used.

"Malaria remains a scourge," said Mark Fishman,
president, Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research.

"The parasite has demonstrated a frustrating ability
to outwit new medicines, from quinine to today`s unsettling
increased tolerance to artemisinin derivatives," he said in a
statement.

"We are delighted that our scientists could provide
this potential new malaria therapy, based on an unprecedented
chemical structure and directed to a novel target."

The drug was tested on mice infected with a strain of
malaria that typically kills them within a week.

A single large dose of the drug cured all of the five
infected mice which received it. Half of the six mice which
received a smaller dose were cured and the cure rate rose to
90 per cent when mice were given three doses of the smaller
amount.

PTI