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This Promising Drug Could Finally Destroy Malaria Once and For All

According to the World Health Organization, a child in Africa dies of malaria every minute.

An international research collaborative has determined that a promising anti-malarial compound tricks the immune system to rapidly destroy red blood cells infected with malaria but leave healthy cells unharmed. How rapid? Forty-eight hours to be exact.

According to a study conducted by scientists at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, researchers determined that the compound (+)-SJ733 uses a novel mechanism to kill the malaria parasite by recruiting the immune system to eliminate malaria-infected red blood cells.

In a mouse model of malaria, a single dose of the compound was found to kill 80 percent of malaria parasites within 24 hours. After two days, the parasite was undetectable.

Planning for safety trials of the compound in healthy adults is underway.

Malaria remains a major health threat to more than half of the world’s population, particularly to children. Spread through the bite of an infected mosquito, the World Health Organization estimates that in Africa a child dies of malaria every minute.

“Our goal is to develop an affordable, fast-acting combination therapy that cures malaria with a single dose,” said corresponding author of the study R. Kiplin Guy, Ph.D., chair of the St. Jude Department of Chemical Biology and Therapeutics. “These results indicate that SJ733 and other compounds that act in a similar fashion are highly attractive additions to the global malaria eradication campaign, which would mean so much for the world’s children, who are central to the mission of St. Jude.”

The drug development effort is being led by a consortium that includes scientists at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the Swiss-based non-profit Medicines for Malaria Venture and Eisai Co., a Japanese pharmaceutical company. 

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