First-Ever in Vitro Culture Method for Monkey Malaria Parasite Should Allow Rapid, High-Throughput Testing of Possible Drugs for Relapsing Malaria in Humans & Endangered Penguins

A breakthrough in monkey malaria research by two University of Otago (New Zealand) scientists could help scientists diagnose and treat a relapsing form of human malaria. Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease that affects humans and other animals with more than 200 million cases annually, particularly in Asia, the Pacific, and South America. Symptoms include fever, tiredness, vomiting and headaches and, in severe cases, it can cause seizures, coma, or death. Relapsing malaria is caused by the vivax malaria parasite, which is also the most widely distributed and difficult to treat cause of human malaria. Current efforts to develop new drugs and vaccines against vivax have been stymied by lack of a test tube (in vitro) cultured method. However, in a world-first discovery, Dr. Adelina Chua and Jessica Ong have developed an in vitro method for culturing a monkey malaria parasite which is closely related to the relapsing vivax parasite. "We can't culture vivax malaria, but now we can culture its almost identical sister species which gives us an unprecedented opportunity to develop and rapidly test new antimalarials," explained Ms. Ong, a doctoral candidate from the University of Otago Department of Microbiology and Immunology. An interesting spinoff from this research is that the drugs developed against human relapsing malaria also have a good chance of working against bird malaria, which has been killing the endangered yellow-eyed penguin (image) on the New Zealand mainland. "Before our model there was no high throughput model to screen new antimalarials targeting relapsing malaria," Ms. Ong says. "Our model will play a significant part in not only drug development, but also vaccine and diagnostic research."
Login Or Register To Read Full Story