Australian research provides final clue for anti-malaria drug
The drug, the first discovery in the fight against malaria in two decades, holds out fresh hope for conquering the disease, which claims hundreds of thousands of lives a year and is known for its evolving drug resistance.
The malaria parasite, carried to humans by mosquitoes, lives in red blood cells, which are full of salt. To survive, researchers knew it had to have a way of filtering salt out of its body.
"The parasite is quite leaky, it's letting salt in all the time. But that doesn't matter because it's got a very effective molecular salt pump that keeps pushing the salt out again," said Professor Kiaran Kirk, director at the Research School of Biology at Australia National University (ANU).
Research teams in the United States and Singapore had developed a drug that attacked the protein that makes up the salt pump, but it wasn't until the ANU researchers tested it that they confirmed it worked effectively.
"On the one hand, they had a brand new drug, they didn't know how it worked," Kirk said.
"We knew a lot about salt and salt pumps, and it was clear their drug was knocking out our salt pump. That led us to work together."
The drug attacks the salt pump and disables it, causing the parasite to fill up with salt and die. Targeting such a
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