Scientists have identified a new means to eradicate malaria infections by rapidly killing the blood-borne Plasmodium parasites that cause the disease.
Malaria causes up to 3 million deaths each year, predominantly afflicting vulnerable people such as children under five and pregnant women, in tropical regions of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Although treatments are available for malaria, the Plasmodium parasite is fast becoming resistant to the most common drugs, and health authorities say they desperately need new strategies to tackle the disease.
The new findings published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) uses molecules that interfere with an important stage of the parasite's growth cycle and harnesses this effect to kill them. According to report, the impact is so acute it kills 90 per cent of the parasites in just three hours and all those tested in laboratory samples of infected human blood cells, within twelve hours.
The research was carried out by chemists at Imperial College London and biological scientists from the research institutions Institut Pasteur and CNRS in France Lead researcher Dr Matthew Fuchter, from Imperial College London.
Leader of the team, Dr Matthew Fuchter, from Imperial College London notes: "Plasmodium falciparum causes 90 per cent of malaria deaths, and its ability to resist current therapies is spreading dramatically.
Whilst many new drugs are in development, a significant proportion are minor alterations, working in the same way as current ones and therefore may only be effective in the short term. We believe we may have identified the parasite's 'Achilles' Heel', using a molecule that disrupts many vital processes for its survival and development.