Every year, malaria kills hundreds of thousands of people. Africa hosts the greatest amount of victims, and it is estimated that the disease burdens the continent with $12 billion of financial losses every year owing to the disease’s negative effects on labor capacity, associated healthcare costs and other factors. It is known that people who endure persistent malarial exposure can develop immunity to the infection, but this isn't the case for many people. Furthermore, the parasites responsible for causing the disease are able to develop resistance to many, if not all, current antimalarial medications. The most notorious of these parasites is Plasmodium falciparum. New vaccines and drugs are being developed to combat the evolving infectious disease, and a new successful drug trial shows lots of promise.
AQ-13 kills it all
Currently, the first line of treatment for malaria consists of a combination of Lumefantrine and Artemether. This medication, which goes by the commercial name of Coartem (although there are other denominations too), has been effective in the treatment of the infection in most cases. However, it has been discovered that the main malaria-causing parasite—Plasmodium falciparum—is developing resistance to this and other similar medications. Researchers at the Tulane University in the US developed a new drug that could tackle this problem in non-severe cases of infection. Scientists have carried out a clinical trial of AQ-13 involving 66 infected men from Mali. Dividing the participants in two groups, scientists compared the efficacy of the new drug with the artemether-lumefantrine combination.
Both drug treatments revealed a similar ability to cure the infections, but there were two instances of antimalarial resistance in the artemether-lumefantrine group. No such occurrence was observed in the AQ-13 group. Within a week, the new drug had cleared the infection away. These are significant results given the urgent need to find a solution to the decreasing effectiveness of current treatments.
Dr. Donald Krogstad, one of the researchers involved in the study, highlighted how the development of this new drug was possible by new biotechnological advances at their disposal. The method used to uncover the antimalarial potential of AQ-13 also opened the door for the development of other potent antiparasitic drugs. The study was supervised by the FDA, which could speed up the regulatory processes necessary to release the new drug not only in the US but in African and Latin American countries as well. Before that, scientists still need to evaluate the drug's efficacy in women and children. If the results turn out equally positive, the AQ-13 drug could become the new first-line of defense against malaria in the near future.