Scientists have found a drug that can be used to control malaria infection. The research, to be reported in the August issue of Nature Chemical Biology, shows that the drug, astemizole, interferes with a key process of the parasite.
The malaria parasite P. falciparum causes the crystallization of heme molecules from the blood of victims. Some antimalarials, like chloroquine inhibit this reaction but there are strains of the disease that have become resistant to this drug. David Sullivan Jr. and colleagues examined the ability of over 2600 existing compounds that have entered phase II clinical trials. This screening revealed several compounds with antimicrobial and antimalarial properties, including the allergy drug astemizole. Astemizole has been shown to inhibit heme crystallization and could reduce parasitemia in mouse malaria models, by a mechanism that seems to be distinct from how chloroquine acts.
The ready availability of astemizole in generic form in malaria endemic countries such as Cambodia and Thailand make it an attractive choice for anti-malaria strategies. In addition, the unique pathway of inhibition by astemizole means that it could be used against chloroquine-resistant malaria strains.
David Sullivan Jr. (The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Chemical Biology press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza
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