In 2012, malaria was responsible for more than 625,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. And most of those were among African children younger than the age of 5. Researchers have been searching for years for a drug that can fight malaria quickly before the parasite responsible for the condition becomes resistant to it. Now, a team of researchers has found a compound that may be able to kill all traces of the malaria parasite within 48 hours.
According to a new study, which was published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers have identified a compound called (+)-SJ733 that can kill red blood cells infected with malaria without damaging healthy cells.
The study was conducted by an international team led by researchers at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, where the compound was first isolated in previous research. The team found that in animal studies, a single dose of (+)-SJ733 killed 80 percent of malaria parasites within 24 hours. After 48 hours, no trace of the parasite was detectable, The Economic Times reported. Researchers found that the new compound disrupts the internal sodium balance of the cells infected with malaria while leaving the uninfected cells alone.
The next step for the team is to carry out safety trials of the compound in healthy human adults. If it continues to be effective, this breakthrough could be responsible for saving hundreds of thousands of lives every year.
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