Drug resistance may make malaria parasites vulnerable to other substances

Malaria parasites that develop resistance to the most effective class of anti-malarial drugs may become susceptible to other treatments as a result. The discovery could reveal potential new drug options, which would be essential in the event of resistance to the best anti-malarials.

In a new study, researchers have shown how the anti-malarials artemisinins attack the malaria parasite by inhibiting the action of a crucial protein, and that genetic mutations in this protein can reduce the effect of the drugs. While demonstrating this, however, they also discovered that a mutation that gives the parasite resistance to artemisinins makes it more sensitive to attack by another substance, cyclopiazonic acid (CPA). CPA is thought to be too toxic to be a suitable anti-malarial treatment, but the findings suggest it could be worth pursuing derivatives of the acid as treatment options.

The study was led by researchers at St George’s, University of London and has been published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.