Researchers have found a new chemical compound that can stop malaria in mice with a single low dose. Scientists hope their early work will now lead to new drugs for people afflicted with malaria. Malaria is spread to humans by the bites of infected female mosquitoes and it is estimated that about half of the world's population is at risk of catching the disease. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2015, there were 214 million new cases of malaria and 438,000 malaria deaths.
Aside from avoiding bites by using insecticides and bed nets, people can protect themselves against malaria by taking antimalarial drugs. But existing treatments are less than perfect – people have to take repeated doses. Moreover, the parasites that cause malaria are developing resistance to these drugs. Along the Cambodia-Thailand border, one type of malaria parasite - Plasmodium falciparum – has become resistant to almost all available antimalarial medicines.
The newly discovered chemical compound targets an enzyme called phenylalanyl-tRNA synthetase and appears to wipe out parasites before they can multiply in the liver and be released in bigger numbers into the bloodstream. Pointing out that a single dose antimalarial drug potentially reduces costs and removes the issue of patients not completing the course of treatment, the researchers said their findings could lead to the discovery of better anti-malarial compounds in the future.