A candidate for use as a drug to neutralize some harmful bacteria also prevents the growth of the parasite that causes malaria, according to a team of Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, led by Sidney Altman, who was honored in 1989 with a Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Each year, malaria affects over 200 million people and kills over one million. This disease is caused by five species of parasites of the genus Plasmodium that are transmitted to people by mosquitoes.
According to the results obtained in the new study, the compound created in laboratories of Altman and Choukri Ben Mamoun at the Yale University School of medicine, enters the red blood cells and acts on the molecular machinery that allows the parasite to thrive within the cells.
Although Altman’s team studied mainly a species of malaria parasite, it is clear that the compound can also incapacitate malaria strains resistant to drugs used to combat them. “This compound can kill strains that are now resistant to drugs such as chloroquine and pyrimethamine,” says Altman. The work stems from the discovery by Alfred LM Bothwell, professor of immunobiology at Yale University, a basic peptide that can penetrate cell membranes and walls.
Altman and his colleagues have also added a fragment of RNA to this peptide was then attached to the messenger RNA produced by the parasites in the blood. The presence of this molecular complex activates a disabling response to the parasite.
In Altman’s lab, there had already shown that this compound can kill dangerous strains of bacteria, and is currently investigating its effectiveness in combating infections in skin wounds.