Development of antimalarial drugs
The malaria parasite is rapidly developing resistance to all of the antimalarial drugs currently available. As the malaria parasite is responsible for about 1 million deaths per annum, it is essential that new drugs be developed or therapies introduced that overcome drug resistance. Both approaches depend on an understanding ofthe molecular basis of drug action and drug resistance.
Many antimalarial drugs, such as chloroquine and artemisinin, are thought to interfere with, or to be activated, by the digestion of haemoglobin in the blood stages of the malaria life cycle. The parasite degrades haemoglobin to amino acids in an acidic food vacuole to produce free haem and reactive oxygen species as toxic by-products.
Chloroquine and artemisinin are thought to target the parasite's waste disposal system; however the exact mechanisms of killing are not understood. The Tilley laboratory is currently undertaking a study of the toxic effects of chloroquine and artemisinin on the parasite to try to pin-point the killing mechanisms and to understand the process of resistance. The new information is used in the design of novel quinoline and endoperoxide antimalarial drugs.
Rendered model showing the digestive system of the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. Drugs such as artemisinin target the parasite's diet of haemoglobin.
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