Australians Have Made A Breakthrough In The Fight Against Malaria

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Australian researchers are homing in on a new target for malaria treatment, after developing a compound which blocks the action of a key gatekeeper enzyme essential for malaria parasite survival.

Scientists at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne developed WEHI-916 to block the critical malaria enzyme Plasmepsin V.

Dr Brad Sleebs, Dr Justin Boddey and colleagues published their findings today in the international journal PLOS Biology.

WEHI-916 could lead to drugs effective against all five species of Plasmodium parasite which cause malaria.

“Of the five malaria species, Plasmodium falciparum is responsible for the most deaths and is highly prevalent in Africa, while Plasmodium vivax presents major health issues for the Asia-Pacific region,” Dr Sleebs said.

About half of the world’s population is at risk of contracting malaria each year, with more than 200 million people infected.

Malaria kills up to 700,000 people each year, predominantly children under the age of five. Current antimalarial drugs are becoming less effective as the parasite develops resistance to the drugs, making the search for new targets that can kill all species of malaria critical.

Institute scientists will now turn their attention to developing WEHI-916 and related compounds for human use.

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