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One-off pill to cure malaria

Malaria could be a thing of the past, thanks to a powerful new pill in the offing. Just a single dose of an experimental drug was found to clear the disease in mice carrying the killer infection, say researchers.

world Updated: Sep 05, 2010 16:02 IST

Malaria could be a thing of the past, thanks to a powerful new pill in the offing. Just a single dose of an experimental drug was found to clear the disease in mice carrying the killer infection, say researchers.

Now a team of scientists have found a drug, NITD609, that they say is effective against the two most common parasites responsible for malaria - Plasmodium falciparum and P. vivax - and also against a range of drug-resistant strains.

"From the beginning, NITD609 stood out because it looked different, in terms of its structure and chemistry, from all other currently used antimalarials," said Elizabeth Winzeler of the US National Institutes of Health who worked on the team.

The scientists found that NITD609 targets a different parasite protein from other anti-malarial drugs, and one oral dose was enough to clear the tropical disease.

More safety tests are needed before the drug can be given to humans, but clinical trials could begin by the year-end.

Scientists screened 12,000 chemicals using an ultra-high throughput robotic screening technique before they singled out NITD609 as a potential drug candidate.

World Health Organization (WHO) estimates about 243 million cases of malaria each year, claiming 863,000 lives, mostly among young children in Africa.

Malaria is spread by mosquitoes and its symptoms include fever, muscle pain and diarrhoea, reports the Daily Mail.

Around 1,500 travellers return to Britain with malaria every year. In 2008, there were 1,370 cases of malaria reported and six deaths in Britain, according to the journal Science.

In July, pop star Cheryl Cole was left seriously ill in hospital after she contracted malaria in Tanzania.