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Prospects for antimalarial drugs heightens

Hohoe (V/R), July 9,
GNA – Scientists have discovered a new way to slow down malaria infections,
providing a possible new target for antimalarial drugs.

The team are already
working with pharmaceutical companies to use this knowledge to develop new
antimalarials – an important step in the battle against drug resistant malaria.

When malaria parasites
invade red blood cells, they form an internal compartment in which they
replicate many times before bursting out of the cell and infecting more cells.

In order to escape red
blood cells, the parasites have to break through both the internal compartment
and the cell membrane using various proteins and enzymes.

Scientists at the
Francis Crick Institute and The London School of Hygiene & Tropical
Medicine have identified a key protein involved in this process.

Disrupting this
protein reduces the efficiency of parasite escape, slowing down the rate of
infection.

A research, made
available to Ghana News Agency, published in PLOS Pathogens was funded by
Cancer Research UK, the Medical Research Council and Wellcome.

Dr Mike Blackman,
Group Leader at the Francis Crock Institute said: “The parasite sits in
its internal compartment inside the cell, surrounded by lots of proteins, a bit
like a baby surrounded by amniotic fluid.”

“We focused on
the most common protein, known as SERA5, assuming that it probably has an
important role since there is so much of it.”

The team used genetic
tools to knock out the gene responsible for producing SERA5 in malaria
parasites and then took time-lapse video of the cells under a microscope.

They found that the
parasites broke through the membranes faster than normal but many got stuck on
their way out, meaning that they were less likely to invade other red blood
cells.

“Malaria
parasites don’t survive for long outside red blood cells, so if they get stuck
on their way out, they might die before they have a chance to infect another
cell,” says Christine Collins, researcher at the Francis Crick Institute
and first-named author of the paper.

Dr Blackman
said:” We found that parasites lacking SERA5 were about half as efficient
as normal parasites at escaping and infecting new cells.”

The team are now
working with GSK to see if SERA5 or one of the enzymes that it controls could
be a potential drug target.

“Drug resistant
malaria is a huge problem, so there is a real push to develop new drugs that
work in a different way,” says Dr Blackman.

“None of the
current antimalarials work by preventing the parasites from escaping red blood
cells, so we think that the proteins and enzymes that help the parasites break
free could be valuable new targets that we can design drugs for.”

GNA

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