Malaria is the scourge of tropical nations, crippling its victims with symptoms like debilitating fever, convulsions and nausea, and killing half a million people annually. Now researchers in South Africa say they may have a one-size-fits-all solution, in the form of a new drug that could work with just one dose.
The drug is a synthetic molecule in a class of compounds known as aminopyridines, which are precursors to many drugs for neurological disorders. Scientists at Australia’s Griffith University were screening more than 6 million drug compounds and suggested aminopyridine for further study. Then a team of scientists led by Kelly Chibale at the University of Cape Town tested several of these compounds, settling on a suitable molecule that will now be tested further.Most cases of malaria in Africa are caused by a parasite called Plasmodium falciparum, which lives in the salivary glands of female mosquitoes and is transferred into the human bloodstream when the bug bites.
This new drug killed the parasites instantly, according to reports from Cape Town media and the UCT — even those that are resistant to other anti-malarial drugs. Animal tests have not shown any negative side effects. Clinical trials on humans are set to start in 2013, South African government officials announced this week.