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Biological Chemistry

Screening Drugs for Antimalarials

by Stu Borman
August 8, 2011 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 89, Issue 32

High-throughput screening and gene profiling have been used together to identify drug combinations that could help combat resistance to malaria drugs, according to a report in Science (DOI: 10.1126/sci ence.1205216). Malaria is an infection by Plasmodium protozoan parasites that causes fever, anemia, and death; it affects several hundred million people worldwide. Current medications are used in combination to improve their efficacy, but malaria parasites tend to develop drug resistance, so new drugs and better combinations are urgently needed. A team led by NIH researchers Christopher P. Austin and Xin-zhuan Su developed an approach that could lead to more effective antimalarial drug cocktails. They screened 2,816 compounds already registered or approved for human use for their antimalarial activity and then used genomewide association analysis of 61 malarial parasite strains to determine specific gene variants affecting parasite responses to many drugs. Compounds identified in the study “offer novel strategies for antimalarial therapies,” the researchers write, and the genes found to be associated with drug responses “provide a genetic basis to better delineate the nature of drug resistance in malaria.”


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