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28 August 2012

South African research may lead to single-dose malaria cure

A compound discovered by a University of Cape Town team shows strong potential for the future development of a single dose cure for malaria.

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A compound discovered by a University of Cape Town team shows strong potential for the future development of a single dose cure for malaria.

The Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, today announced a breakthrough by University of Cape Town (UCT) researchers that promises to revolutionise malaria treatment around the world. The Minister’s announcement was made in conjunction with the Medicines for Malaria Venture and the Drug Discovery and Development Centre (H3-D) at UCT.

“A recently discovered compound not only has the potential to become part of a single-dose cure for all strains of malaria, but might also be able to block transmission from person to person, according to a research collaboration involving the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), based in Switzerland, and the Drug Discovery and development Centre (H3-D) at the UCT” researchers say.

Should the MMV390048 molecule prove to deliver on its potential, a single dose cure could possibly be on the market by the end of the decade. This research could be seen as “South Africa’s gift to the rest of Africa,” says Dr Tim Wells, Chief Scientific Officer of the Medicines for Malaria venture. Developing the drug has made possible the training of more than 10 local scientists and cemented a strong relationship with an international partner.

What makes the MMV390048 unique?

  • It is very strong, and displayed a complete cure of animals affect with malaria parasites in a single dose given orally.
  •  It is active against a wide number of resistant strains of the malaria parasite.

Other recent progress in African malaria treatment is an experimental vaccine produced by pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. This vaccine is said to give 56% protection against infection and is financed by the Gates Foundation.

Malaria facts

  • Malaria is widely seen as the worst parasitic disease in the world.
  • According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around 655 000 people died of malaria worldwide in 2010.
  • 90% of malaria deaths in 2010 were in African countries.
  • A child dies of malaria in Africa every minute, says WHO.
  • Symptoms of malaria include fever, headache, chills and vomiting.
  • People are infected with the malaria parasite through the bite of a mosquito.
  • Pregnant women, children, people with HIV/Aids and travellers to malaria risk areas are most at risk, as these groups lack natural immunity.

(Adele Hamilton, Health24, August 2012)

Sources: UCT Press release, WHO, Health24

 

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