Saturday, 23 April 2011

MALARIA: Chemotherapy drugs may be breakthrough in fight against malaria

Apr 19, 2011
Brussels - European researchers have found that chemotherapy drugs used to treat cancer also kill the parasite that causes malaria, in what the European Commission on Tuesday hailed as a breakthrough in the fight against the deadly mosquito-borne disease.
'This discovery could lead to an effective anti-malaria treatment that would save millions of lives and transform countless others,' the European Union's research commissioner, Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, said in a statement.
The research was led by EU-funded laboratories in Britain, France and Switzerland. They found that the malaria's plasmodium parasite 'hijacks' enzymes in human cells to multiply and that it can be stopped from doing so with chemotherapy drugs.
Scientists believe that the discovery will open the door to making cells inhospitable for plasmodium, rather than attacking the parasite directly - an approach that has been hampered by the plasmodium's ability to quickly become drug resistant.
'This strategy deprives the parasite of a major modus operandi for development of drug resistance,' the commission said.
The World Health Organization had warned in January that the world risked 'losing its most potent treatment for malaria' because of drug-resistant parasites, as some have already been found on the border between Cambodia and Thailand.
Although chemotherapy drugs come with notorious side effects, they are expected to be less acute in the case of malaria because of its shorter treatment period.
How to best use the drugs against malaria will now be tested in clinical trials, before researchers seek authorization to make them available worldwide for treatment of the disease.
The world is set to mark its annual Malaria Day on April 25. According to the WHO, the disease in 2009 infected some 225 million people, killing nearly 800,000.
It was the leading killer of children under 5 years old and infants in Africa, even though it is treatable.
'The ultimate goal is the complete eradication of the global scourge of malaria,' Geoghegan-Quinn said. 'Collaborative work across many borders is the only way of confronting such global challenges effectively.'

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