Aussie researchers make breakthrough in developing treatments for drug-resistant malaria

2020-08-07 Xinhua Editor:Li Yan

Australian scientists said on Friday that they had made a breakthrough that could lead to the development of treatments for drug-resistant malaria.

In a study published on Friday, researchers from Australian National University (ANU) found that PfCRT, a protein that is largely responsible for drug resistance in Plasmodium parasites which cause malaria, can be inhibited.

Rowena Martin and Sarah Shafik, the lead authors of the study, said that the evolution of drug-resistant Plasmodium parasites was a major threat to the control and elimination of malaria.

"For 20 years, researchers around the world have been trying to understand the function of PfCRT and why it is essential for parasite survival. We have succeeded in answering these long-standing questions," Martin said in a media release.

"Knowing how PfCRT functions will help develop drugs that block it."

"In addition to killing the parasite outright, these drugs could be used in combination therapies to nullify the multidrug resistance caused by PfCRT and thereby restore the activities of existing drugs."

"We are now also in a position to understand the causes and constraints that are dictating the evolution of PfCRT in different parts of the world where malaria is of concern," Martin said.

According to the latest world malaria report, which was published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in December 2019, there were estimated 228 million cases of malaria around the world and 405,000 deaths in 2018. Approximately 93 percent of the cases and 94 percent of the deaths were in Africa.

"There is a real need to identify new drug targets for malaria, as well as to learn more about the parasite's biology and the proteins responsible for multidrug resistance," Shafik said. 

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