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Scientists are claiming a significant breakthrough in the search for a permanent treatment for malaria, based on the identification of part of a key protein involved in increasing the resistance of the malaria parasite to drugs.

Most widely known drugs against malaria block the activity of a protein known as DHTR, which is essential to the survival of the malaria parasite. Mutations in this protein reduce the effectiveness of these treatments, giving rise to drug resistance that has so far significantly hampered efforts to fight the disease.

In this month's Nature Structural Biology, researchers from the United Kingdom and Thailand reveal the crystal structure of 'normal' and mutated versions of DHFR. These structures show that resistant enzymes have specific features, information about which could lead to the design of new drugs against the disease, which kills one African child every 30 seconds.

"We can now use this protein structure to design a new generation of drugs which makes it possible to overcome resistant strains of malaria one of the researchers, Malcolm Walkinshaw of Edinburgh University told the BBC News website. "People have studied this protein for a long time, but until now, no one has been able to determine its detailed structure."

Link to BBC news story

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