Some anti-retroviral drugs used to combat HIV-infected people can also give at least partial protection against malaria, according to Australian researchers addressing a conference in the United States.
The researchers told delegates at the just closed Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in San Francisco, that further research on some of the drugs might support the development of a new class of antimalarial drugs.
"These findings may be especially significant in sub-Saharan Africa and other areas of the developing world where there are high rates of HIV and malaria co-infection," the researchers, reported by the London-based 'aidsmap' organisation, said.
Malaria in Africa, once thought to be eradicated, is now encountered frequently throughout the continent - and is even more frequent and severe among people infected with HIV.
HIV ups malaria risk
"HIV-infected pregnant women are more likely to develop malaria and have more severe symptoms including fever and anaemia. There is also some evidence that mother-to-child transmission of HIV is affected by malaria but the research is conflicting," the conference was told.
The researchers used serum from HIV-infected people taking protease inhibitors against the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum in vitro.
They found that serum taken from people who were taking antiretroviral therapy - which included ritonavir-boosted saquinavir (Invirase) or lopinavir (Kaletra) - showed significant antimalarial activity.
Therapies which included nelfinavir (Viracept), amprenavir (Agenerase) and the NNRTI nevirapine (Viramune) did not inhibit the growth of the malaria parasite.
The Plasmodium species all produce protease enzymes which are vital to the parasite's life cycle.
New target for malaria meds
"This may be a potential target for developing an entirely new class of antimalarial drugs," the researchers said.
However, the effect of the drugs on the malaria parasite was described as 'moderate' and whether it would be clinically useful had not yet been established. – (Sapa)