Researchers at the University of Dundee in the United Kingdom have identified a new compound that could be used to create both a cure and a vaccine against malaria in one dose.
In a study published in the journal Nature, scientists at Dundee's Drug Discovery Unit (DDU) and the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) were able to produce a drug that could work effectively against parasites that have become resistant to existing treatments.
The new drug is based on a compound known as DDD107498 that was developed by the researchers.
Dr. Kevin Read, one of the authors of the study, explained the urgency of producing new medications against malaria.
"Resistance to the current gold-standard anti-malarial drug is now considered a real threat," Read said.
"The compound we have discovered works in a different way to all other anti-malarial medicines on the market or in clinical development, which means that it has great potential to work against current drug-resistant parasites."
Read added that their drug is designed to target the production of proteins within the malaria parasite that causes the development of the disease.
MMV CEO Dr. David Reddy pointed out that malaria disease continues to plague half the population of the world and most of them are people cannot afford to have it.
He said that the new DDD107498 compound not only provides an effective treatment for the disease, but it also helps prevent its spread to vulnerable populations.
The University of Dundee and the Medicines for Malaria Venture have been working closely since 2009 in developing new treatments for malaria. Researchers from both groups have tested around 4,700 compounds to find out which one could be used to kill the parasite.
This was the basis for the project, which was subsequently optimized through several design cycles, preparations and trials.
The MMV has started testing the safety of the DDD107498 compound. The researchers hope the drug would be able to enter human clinical testing by next year.
Ian Gilbert, the lead author of the study, said that their findings show that a single dose of the DDD107498 compound has the ability to cure malaria, prevents its spread to other people and even protect individuals from contracting the disease.
The University of Dundee and Medicines for Malaria Venture study is featured in Nature.
Photo: Karunakar Rayker | Flickr