Outsmarting malaria

Outsmarting malaria

Illuminate newsletter index page, March 2020
March 2020

Dr Brad Sleebs and Associate Professor Justin Boddey
L-R Dr Brad Sleebs and Associate Professor Justin Boddey
have made significant discoveries to reduce the impact of
malaria.

A new drug target has been discovered for preventing the world’s deadliest malaria parasite from spreading infection.

The research was led by the Institute’s Associate Professor Justin Boddey in collaboration with Professor Vicky Avery from Griffith University in Queensland.

More than half a million people die from malaria every year and Plasmodium falciparum – the most lethal of all malaria parasites – is responsible for 90 per cent of infections and 99 per cent of malaria deaths globally.

Due to the parasite’s ability to constantly mutate and develop resistance to therapies, new preventions and treatments that act across different stages of the malaria lifecycle – the liver stage, blood stage and mosquito transmission stage – are  required.

Halting transmission

Using small molecule inhibitors developed at the Institute by Dr Brad Sleebs, the researchers blocked plasmepsin V, an enzyme essential for the development of gametocytes – a form of the malaria parasite responsible for transmission from humans to mosquitoes.

This research builds on previous Institute studies that revealed plasmepsin V was also an effective drug target for killing the malaria parasite in the blood stage of its lifecycle.

Associate Professor Boddey said it was exciting to identify a new drug target for blocking malaria transmission.

“It’s been a rewarding journey from identifying the function of plasmepsin V, to validating this enzyme’s dual function as an effective blood stage and mosquito transmission-blocking drug target,” he said.

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