A team of researchers has identified a key metabolic enzyme that is required by the common malaria parasites at all stages of its life cycle for survival in humans.
Co-first author Marcus C.S. Lee, PhD, associate research scientist in microbiology and immunology at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) said the study is important because most antimalarials are effective at killing the parasites only as they circulate in the bloodstream.
However, the parasites can hide in the liver for years before re-emerging and triggering a relapse of the disease.
The other co-first author is Case W. McNamara, PhD, research investigator at the Genomics Institute for the Novartis Research Foundation. The study leaders are Elizabeth A. Winzeler, PhD, professor of pharmacology and drug discovery at University of California San Diego, and Thierry Diagana, head of Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases in Singapore.
The enzyme, phosphatidylinositol 4-kinase (PI4K), was found by screening more than a million drug compounds against Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite responsible for the most lethal form of malaria. Using this screen, the researchers found a class of compounds known as imidazopyrazines, which are capable of killing several species of Plasmodium at each stage of the parasites' life cycle in its vertebrate host.