CHAMPAIGN, Ill., Feb. 16 (UPI) -- University of Illinois medical scientists say they've discovered an unusual chemical reaction that allows malaria parasites and many bacteria to survive.
The researchers, led by Professor Eric Oldfield, said they also have learned how to exploit that chemical reaction by developing a potent inhibitor for it.
"There is an urgent need for new drugs to combat malaria and bacterial diseases, such as tuberculosis, that are becoming resistant to existing treatments," Oldfield said. "Millions of people have tuberculosis, for example, and some of the bacterial strains that cause TB are completely drug resistant. The parasites that cause malaria also have become resistant to quinine, chloroquine and now artemisinin -- three common treatments for the disease."
The scientists said the chemical pathway they discovered occurs in malaria parasites and in most bacteria, but not in humans or other animals, thereby making it an ideal drug target.
The findings are reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.