New way to fight malaria proposed

June 2, 2010 at 4:36 PM
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MELBOURNE, June 2 (UPI) -- Australian and British scientists say they have discovered molecules similar to that found in the blood-thinning drug heparin can stop malaria infections.

Scientists at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne said all current anti-malarials licensed for use in humans block the development of the parasite within the red blood cell.

But now James Beeson, Michelle Boyle and Jack Richards from the institute's Infection and Immunity division, along with colleagues at Imperial College London and Australia's Burnet Institute, say they've identified a new approach that could stop the parasite infecting red blood cells in the first place.

Using real-time video microscopy of red blood cell infection, the team showed that heparin-like carbohydrates blocked the ability of the malaria parasite to infect cells.

"The malaria parasite needs a protein called MSP1 if it is to infect red blood cells as MSP1 is involved in the initial attachment of the parasite to the cells," Beeson said. "We have shown that heparin-like carbohydrates bind to MSP1, which stops the parasite from properly attaching to the red blood cell and, therefore, from invading."

The research, reported in the journal Blood, suggests new anti-malarials are possible based on the structure and activity of heparin-like molecules.

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