Scientists release data on potential new treatment targets for malaria

May 19, 2010, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
Malaria is caused by the Plasmodium parasite, which is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. Image shows malarial parasites (in green) infecting a red blood cell. Credit: St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

An international team led by St. Jude Children's Research Hospital investigators today released data detailing the effectiveness of nearly 310,000 chemicals against a malaria parasite that remains one of the world's leading killers of young children.

The research, which appears in the May 20 edition of the scientific journal Nature, identified more than 1,100 new compounds with confirmed activity against the . Of those, 172 were studied in detail, leading to identification of almost two dozen families of molecules investigators consider possible candidates for drug development. St. Jude researchers already used one of the molecules to stop the parasite's growth in mice.

The six-year project was launched by R. Kiplin Guy, Ph.D., St. Jude Department of and Therapeutics chair, in an effort to revive malaria drug development. Guy is senior author of the study. W. Armand Guiguemde, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in Guy's laboratory, is the first author.

"Malaria causes roughly 8 percent of childhood deaths worldwide and remains among the greatest threats to children in the ," Guy said. "At St. Jude, we focus on diseases that kill children, but lack good treatments. That is what drove us to start this work."

"These are the same tools and techniques that we are now using to find new targets and drugs to treat childhood cancer. This work illustrates their enormous power for ," said Dr. William Evans, St. Jude director and chief executive officer.

The effort has grown into a consortium that includes investigators at nine institutions and foundations in the U.S., Australia and Europe. Collaborators are taking cooperation a step further and launching a public database to share the results of their research and the underlying data.

"We've provided a toolbox to the global community and given them a lot of the early results from working with the tools so they won't have to repeat the work," Guy said. "This new information doubles the number of chemical structures available for anti-malarial ."

The database includes the chemical structure and activity profile of each of the 309,474 molecules in the St. Jude library of drugs, natural compounds and other chemicals. There is additional information about the 172 compounds that were more comprehensively evaluated. The compounds are all commercially available. Researchers interested in accessing the database can visit

In recent years, development has focused on creating medications against specific targets or on improving existing medications. The approach focused on a handful of chemical targets, and results have been disappointing.

For this study, investigators used a different strategy and surveyed the hospital's library of compounds looking for those effective against the entire malaria parasite. Scientists tested the chemicals against the Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest of the malaria parasites. The work led St. Jude researchers to three families of molecules, including two believed to act against new targets. Investigators hope to have a new drug in the clinic within a decade.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Therapy for muscular dystrophy-caused heart failure also improves muscle function in mice

February 22, 2018
Injections of cardiac progenitor cells help reverse the fatal heart disease caused by Duchenne muscular dystrophy and also lead to improved limb strength and movement ability, a new study shows.

Artificial intelligence quickly and accurately diagnoses eye diseases and pneumonia

February 22, 2018
Using artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques, researchers at Shiley Eye Institute at UC San Diego Health and University of California San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in China, Germany and Texas, ...

Gut microbes protect against sepsis—mouse study

February 22, 2018
Sepsis occurs when the body's response to the spread of bacteria or toxins to the bloodstream damages tissues and organs. The fight against sepsis could get a helping hand from a surprising source: gut bacteria. Researchers ...

DNA gets away: Scientists catch the rogue molecule that can trigger autoimmunity

February 22, 2018
A research team has discovered the process - and filmed the actual moment - that can change the body's response to a dying cell. Importantly, what they call the 'Great Escape' moment may one day prove to be the crucial trigger ...

Low-calorie diet enhances intestinal regeneration after injury

February 22, 2018
Dramatic calorie restriction, diets reduced by 40 percent of a normal calorie total, have long been known to extend health span, the duration of disease-free aging, in animal studies, and even to extend life span in most ...

Fertility breakthrough: New research could extend egg health with age

February 22, 2018
Women have been told for years that if they don't have children before their mid-30s, they may not be able to. But a new study from Princeton University's Coleen Murphy has identified a drug that extends egg viability in ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet May 19, 2010
It's pretty incredible that most people still don't realize how much havoc malaria currently reaps on the world populations. Especially in America, we rarely feel the impact of the disease but it is the worlds' deadliest, killing 1 to 3 million a year. Huge advancements are being made just like this one pretty consistently with this disease. I'll post a video that I feel will greatly enhance this article on the malaria disease.

1 / 5 (1) May 20, 2010
Well yes, and Artemisinin is the best drug for both Malaria and Cancer, but so what?
Unless you can stop people being bitten by Mossies you cannot prevent reinfection of malaria so any drug is worth squat!
Put your money into erradicating Mossies and you will not need drugs.
A little common sense please.
not rated yet May 20, 2010
fixer: good point but don't you mean that immunization would be more effective than a treatment for the disease, once established? Having both immunization and effective meds in the toolkit would seem ideal. Because of the target market both must be inexpensive but, on the other hand the market is large.
1 / 5 (1) May 20, 2010
Who would you immunise, the entire population of the world?
Malaria is carried by other species as well as humans so the only effective target is the Mosquito itself.
What's happening with that laser that was showcased hereabouts- http://www.physor...943.html
Does anyone follow up on these devices?
Prediction, laser mossie zappers backed up with Artemisinin or Sweet Annie tea- http://www.anamed...006.html
and Malaria would be erradicated within a year.
I wish the people who write these stories would read the posts we write!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.