Boost for war against malaria

Trials show drug well tolerated

Monday June 29 2020

The battle against malaria is set to receive a major medical boost after clinical trials for an anti-malarial drug returned positive responses.

The drug went to trial after the discovery of a fast-acting anti- malarial compound at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the US. The trials for the compound, identified as SJ733, indicated that the drug was well tolerated and returned promising anti-malarial eects, including the ability to combat drug- resistant malaria parasites.

“The drug was well tolerated and well absorbed with a rapid anti-parasitic eect. This supports further development of the compound SJ733 as a fast-acting component of combination anti-malaria therapy,” said Dr Aditya Gaur, who co-led the study at St Jude Department of Infectious Diseases. Currently, artemisinin-based combination drug therapy (ACT) is majorly used as the primary form of treatment for uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria. Plasmodium falciparum is the deadliest malarial parasite and the most prevalent in Kenya’s malaria- endemic regions such as parts of Western Kenya near Lake Victoria. However, new drugs are under development following increased drug resistance to the ACT form of treatment.

“Safe and eective anti-malarial drugs are critically needed for the emerging cases of drug resistance,” the study report said. Interestingly, the clinical trials for SJ733 indicated that the drug works against drug-resistant malaria parasites. “This drug works by disrupting the malaria parasite’s ability to remove excess sodium from red blood cells. As this sodium builds up, infected cells become less flexible. The cells are removed by the immune system or get caught in small blood vessels,” stated the report published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases. According to data from the Kenya Bureau of Statistics, malaria is the second biggest cause of reported deaths in Kenya after respiratory infections. Nearly 70 per cent of Kenyans are at risk of contracting malaria. In September last year, Kenya adopted the world’s first malaria vaccine dubbed RTS,S (commercially known as Mosquirix). This adoption made Kenya the third country to start routinely vaccinating infants against malaria.