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Scientists have found how some strains of the malaria parasite resist treatment, a discovery that could lead to a new generation of antimalarial drugs.

The researchers identified the structure of a protein essential to the survival of Plasmodium vivax, the parasite responsible for 70 per cent of malaria cases in Latin America.

Existing drugs, such as pyrimethamine, are becoming increasingly ineffective as the parasite develops resistance to them. The researchers say that this protein structure can be used as a new target to design drugs that override the parasite's resistance.

The team, led by Malcolm Walkinshaw at UK-based Edinburgh University and including researchers from Bangkok's Mahidol University, published their results earlier this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Speaking to the Edinburgh Evening News, Walkinshaw said that although people had studied the protein for a long time, "no one has been able to determine its detailed structure. This is a real breakthrough".

Link to news story in the Edinburgh Evening News

Reference: PNAS 102, 13046 (2005)

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