A seaweed found in Fiji is a promising source of a possible new antimalarial drug, researchers reported at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, in Washington, United States, this week.
The red algae, Callophycus serratus, produce a compound which can kill the malaria parasite, said Julia Kubanek, a chemical ecologist at Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta.
If it proves to work in humans it could be added to the arsenal of drugs to fight the malaria parasite. Reports of resistance to the latest drug, artemisinin have already been reported in Cambodia.
In a search for natural antibiotics, Kubanek and her colleagues collected fistfuls of seaweed and other marine species, isolating compounds and screening them for antibiotic and other biomedical properties. They found that the red algae produce a family of unusual anti-fungal, ring-shaped compounds called bromophycolides, and one of those has strong antimalarial properties.
The next step for the team is to test the compound in mice.