Developed by researchers from St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in the US, laboratory trials suggest that a new malaria drug tricks the immune system into destroying 80% of malaria parasites within 24 hours; and by 48 hours, no traces of any parasite is ever detectable again in patients.

According to laboratory results achieved from trials on mice, the new anti-malaria drug works by inciting the body’s immune system into destroying red blood cells that have been infected with malaria parasites without actually killing the healthy cells.

According to R. Kiplin Guy of the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, “Our goal is to develop an affordable, fast-acting combination therapy that cures malaria with a single dose.” The active compound in the drug is called the (+)-SJ733, and it was developed from molecules engineered at the children’s hospital.

“The data suggest that compounds targeting ATP4 induce physical changes in the infected red blood cells that allow the immune system or erythrocyte quality control mechanisms to recognize and rapidly eliminate infected cells,” said co-author Joseph DeRisi, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. “This rapid clearance response depends on the presence of both the parasite and the investigational drug. That is important because it leaves uninfected red blood cells, also known as erythrocytes, unharmed.”

The ATP4 protein can be found in the deadliest of malaria parasites, the plasmodium falciparum. With the ability of the drug to inhibit the activity of ATP4, the body’s immune system can effectively destroy red blood cells that have become infected with malaria parasites.

The study has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), and clinical trials on humans will soon commence in select clinics around the country.

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