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Modified bone drug kills malaria parasite

A modified osteoporosis drug may prove to be a boon in fighting malaria, which works at very low concentrations and has no side-effects. Osteoporosis is the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time, increasing the risk of fractures.

health and fitness Updated: Feb 29, 2012 14:52 IST

A modified osteoporosis drug may prove to be a boon in fighting malaria, which works at very low concentrations and has no side-effects.

Osteoporosis is the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time, increasing the risk of fractures.

Unlike similar compounds tested against other parasitic protozoa, the new drug BPH-703 readily crosses into the red blood cells of malaria-infected mice and kills the malaria parasite.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers found the drug by screening a library of about 1,000 compounds used in targeting a key enzyme in an important biochemical pathway (isoprenoid biosynthesis) in cancer and in disease-causing organisms, the journal proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports.

The new drug lead, BPH-703, inhibits a key enzyme in isoprenoid biosynthesis that enables the malaria parasite to defend itself from the host immune system.

The drug has little effect on the same chemical pathway in human or mouse cells, said Illinois chemistry professor Eric Oldfield, who led the study, according to an Illinois statement.

The lead compounds are chemically modified forms of the osteoporosis drugs Actonel (Risedronate) and Zometa (Zoledronate), Oldfield said.

The World Health Organization estimates that malaria killed seven lakh to ten lakh people in 2008, most of them in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

The malaria parasite has evolved resistance to nearly every drug used so far to combat it, and while some of these drugs still work - especially when used in combination - drug-resistant malaria strains are always emerging.