Bringing Together Old and New: Developing Anti-Malaria Drugs from Existing Treatments

By Min Seo Jeong

An international group of researchers has found a new combination of treatments to block transmission of P. falciparum malaria, the most common form of the disease present in Africa.

Malaria is a widespread disease commonly found in Africa through infected mosquito bites. Its parasites spread throughout the blood circulation in humans and replicate asexually or develop into gametocytes. Many existing anti-malarial drugs are unable to kill the gametocytes, which allows the parasites to be transmitted back to mosquitoes and further spread the disease.

The compounds analyzed by the researchers were discovered to prevent gametocyte transmission when added to existing anti-malaria treatments. One of the compounds, primaquine, has been commonly used as a treatment for P. vivax malaria. The other compound, methylene blue, is a laboratory dye that exhibits anti-malarial characteristics when injected into the bloodstream. Both drugs have been found to be effective treatments for an experimental group of 80 boys and men with asymptomatic malaria.

Researchers state that the next step is to understand methods in which the compounds can be incorporated into existing malaria treatment tools within the communities. Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at UCSF, Dr. Ingrid Chen, stated that "from a practical standpoint, primaquine is available as a single dose, while methylene blue requires three doses, and it also gives urine a blue color, which would require a greater degree of community sensitization prior to use."

 

University of California - San Francisco. "New evidence shows potential of two drugs to block malaria transmission: Findings could speed elimination of malaria, including its drug-resistant forms." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 February 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180206100323.htm>.