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New malaria drugs kill by promoting premature parasite division

Several new malaria drugs under development share a common feature: they promote an influx of sodium ions into Plasmodium parasites that have invaded red blood cells and multiply there. A study published in PLOS Pathogens suggests that this increase in sodium concentration kills the parasite by changing the composition of its outer membrane (the skin equivalent) and promoting division of the parasite before its genome has been replicated.

Amidst growing concerns about resistance against the effective artemisinin-based therapies, several new malaria drugs are under development. Akhil Vaidya, from Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, USA, and colleagues, are studying the mechanism of action of drug candidates with the aim to learn more about vulnerabilities in the parasite that can form the basis for further rational design of therapeutic interventions.

Massive morphological changes resembling premature onset of parasite division in malaria parasites after two-hour exposure to new antimalarial drugs
Massive morphological changes resembling premature onset of parasite division in malaria parasites after two-hour exposure to new antimalarial drugs
Image Credit: EM by Isabelle Coppens pseudo-colored by Avinash Vaidya