The QIMR team, in conjunction with Griffith University, designed a technique to screen a large library of existing compounds, to see whether any had the potential to block malaria transmission from humans to the mosquito, breaking the cycle of the devastating disease, which kills up to a million people each year.
Initial screening of 10,000 substances identified six strong “hits”, including some drugs already on the market.
Head of QIMR’s Malaria Biology Laboratory, Associate Professor Don Gardiner, said it was an exciting result.
“It was incredibly satisfying. It’s a significant step forward for work into more transmission blocking anti-malarial drugs,” Associate Professor Gardiner said.
“The problem with the only existing drug for blocking transmission in malaria – Primaquine – is that it’s toxic in 25 per cent of affected populations.
“We’re hopeful that of the six compounds we’ve identified so far, toxicity won’t be an issue, and some may be even more effective at blocking transmission than the existing drug. In addition these compounds could conceivably prevent relapses of the disease. “
The research team will now investigate the compounds further, to determine whether they’re suitable to become drugs.
The research was carried out by QIMR’s Don Gardiner, Associate Professor Katherine Trenholme and Professor James McCarthy, and Associate Professor Chris Brown from Griffith University. The screening was conducted in conjunction with the Scripps Research Institute in Florida.
Malaria is responsible for up to one million deaths in Pacific, Asian and African nations every year. Australia has up to 600 cases each year.
Associate Professor Don Gardiner is available for interview
The Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) is a world leading translational research institute. Our research focuses on cancer, infectious diseases, mental health and a range of complex diseases. Working in close collaboration with clinicians and other research institutes, our aim is to improve health by developing new diagnostics, better treatments and prevention strategies.
For more information about QIMR, visit www.qimr.edu.au
Malaria is a major cause of disease and death throughout the world, particularly in the poorest countries. About 3.3 billion people – half the world’s population – is at risk of contracting malaria. It’s caused by protozoan parasites spread from person to person by mosquitoes. The World Health Organisation says there are 250 million malaria cases, and nearly one million deaths each year. A child dies from the disease every 30 seconds.