Public Release: 

Stopping malaria in its tracks

Rockefeller University Press

A new drug acts as a roadblock for malaria, curing mice of established infection, according to a study in The Journal of Experimental Medicine. Treatment was not associated with obvious side effects, suggesting that the drug may also be safe and effective in humans.

Nearly 200 million cases of malaria occur worldwide each year, and roughly 500,000 people (mostly African children) die of the disease. Malaria is caused by infection with the parasite Plasmodium falciparum (Pf), and although the disease can be treated with anti-malarial drugs, the drugs are harsh and resistance often develops.

In 2011, a group of scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the UK discovered that a human protein called basigin was required for all strains of Pf to invade red blood cells, an essential stage of the parasite's life cycle. Antibodies that block the interaction between basigin and the parasite protein PfRH5 were known to block Pf infection in culture, and the Sanger Institute group has now developed a nontoxic anti-basigin drug (called Ab-1) that cured mice of established blood infection.

The transition of promising new drugs from mice to humans usually requires costly and time-consuming clinical trials, but the path for Ab-1 may be less arduous. Basigin has also been implicated in the progression of certain cancers and in graft-versus-host disease in transplant patients, and drugs that block the protein have already proven safe and effective in patients and are already in clinical use.

###

Zenonos, Z.A., et al. 2015. J. Exp. Med. doi:10.1084/jem.20150032

About The Journal of Experimental Medicine

The Journal of Experimental Medicine (JEM) is published by The Rockefeller University Press. All editorial decisions on manuscripts submitted are made by active scientists in conjunction with our in-house scientific editors. JEM content is posted to PubMed Central, where it is available to the public for free six months after publication. Authors retain copyright of their published works and third parties may reuse the content for non-commercial purposes under a creative commons license. For more information, please visit http://www.jem.org .

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.