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Published On: Fri, Feb 15th, 2013

Australian researchers kill the malaria parasite with ‘salt overload’

Researchers at the Australian National University (ANU) believe they’ve come across a way to kill the malaria parasite, a scourge on the planet that kills more than one million people every year.

Malaria image/CDC

Malaria image/CDC

In a paper published in  the latest edition of Cell Host & Microbe, Dr. Natalie Spillman with the Research School of Biology (RSB) showed that the malaria parasite has at its surface a protein that serves as a molecular salt pump, pushing sodium ions out of the parasite.

By blocking the pump using  a potent class of antimalarials, the spiroindolones, researchers believe they can kill the dreaded parasite by causing it to fill rapidly with salt, causing “salt overload”.

“The malaria parasite’s salt pump would seem to be an Achilles heel for the parasite, particularly vulnerable to attack. Knowing this, we can now look for other drugs that block this pump. We can also start to investigate how the parasite might be able to change the shape of the pump and thereby develop resistance to this class of drugs. Both of these aspects are going to be very important in our ongoing battle with the parasite”, according to RSB Director Professor Kiaran Kirk, the senior author on the study.

The spiroindolones are the first genuinely novel class of chemicals to be tested in malaria patients for over 20 years, according to a ANU news release.

“We desperately need new antimalarials and the spiroindolones, now in advanced clinical trials, are looking extremely promising,” Professor Kirk said.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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