In a major medical breakthrough, researchers in the United Kingdom and United States have discovered why the malaria parasite (Plasmodium falciparum) has become resistant to chloroquine, one of the most effective anti-malarial treatments ever developed. The research is published today (24 September) in the journal Molecular Cell.
Researchers at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, found that a parasite protein creates a 'back door' out of which drugs can leak before they can kill the parasite. The researchers believe the protein could also play a role in the parasite's resistance to other drugs.
The discovery opens the way for the development of new treatments for malaria, which the World Health Organisation estimates kills more than one million people a year. The researchers envisage a modified version of chloroquine that the parasite's 'back door' protein cannot remove.
Reference: Molecular Cell 15, 867 (2004)