Malaria could be felled by an Antarctic sea sponge

September 11, 2019

The frigid waters of the Antarctic may yield a treatment for a deadly disease that affects populations in some of the hottest places on earth. Current medications for that scourge -- malaria -- are becoming less effective as drug resistance spreads. But researchers report in ACS' Journal of Natural Products that a peptide they isolated from an Antarctic sponge shows promise as a lead for new therapies.

Some 219 million cases of malaria were reported worldwide in 2017, according to the World Health Organization, with 435,000 people having died from the disease in that year. Symptoms begin with fever and chills, which can be followed by severe anemia, respiratory distress and organ failure. The parasite responsible for malaria is transmitted to people through mosquito bites. It spends some of its lifecycle first in the liver, where it reproduces, and then it moves into the blood. Conventional treatments based on artemisinin and its derivatives hold the parasite in check when it is in patients' blood, but the parasites are increasingly becoming resistant to these medications. One solution is to attack the organism at an earlier stage in its lifecycle, when there are fewer parasites, and resistance might not have developed yet -- namely, when it's in the liver. In their search for a suitable pharmaceutical weapon, Bill J. Baker and colleagues turned to sponges, which rely on an array of chemical defenses to fight off predators.

The team screened a collection of natural products extracted from a Southern Ocean sponge known as Inflatella coelosphaeroides. One compound, which they dubbed friomaramide, blocked infection and development of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum in liver cells in a culture dish as effectively as primaquine, one of the few existing liver-stage treatments. Friomaramide is also nontoxic to the liver cells themselves. The researchers determined that the compound is a linear peptide with a distinctive structure, which they say makes it a promising framework for producing new leads for malaria treatment.
-end-
The authors acknowledge funding from the National Science Foundation and University of South Florida.

The abstract that accompanies this study is available here.

The American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, is a not-for-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS is a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. ACS does not conduct research, but publishes and publicizes peer-reviewed scientific studies. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society, contact newsroom@acs.org.

Follow us: Twitter | Facebook

American Chemical Society

Related Malaria Articles from Brightsurf:

Clocking in with malaria parasites
Discovery of a malaria parasite's internal clock could lead to new treatment strategies.

Breakthrough in malaria research
An international scientific consortium led by the cell biologists Volker Heussler from the University of Bern and Oliver Billker from the UmeƄ University in Sweden has for the first time systematically investigated the genome of the malaria parasite Plasmodium throughout its life cycle in a large-scale experiment.

Scientists close in on malaria vaccine
Scientists have taken another big step forward towards developing a vaccine that's effective against the most severe forms of malaria.

New tool in fight against malaria
Modifying a class of molecules originally developed to treat the skin disease psoriasis could lead to a new malaria drug that is effective against malaria parasites resistant to currently available drugs.

Malaria expert warns of need for malaria drug to treat severe cases in US
The US each year sees more than 1,500 cases of malaria, and currently there is limited access to an intravenously administered (IV) drug needed for the more serious cases.

Monkey malaria breakthrough offers cure for relapsing malaria
A breakthrough in monkey malaria research by two University of Otago scientists could help scientists diagnose and treat a relapsing form of human malaria.

Getting to zero malaria cases in zanzibar
New research led by the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, Ifakara Health Institute and the Zanzibar Malaria Elimination Program suggests that a better understanding of human behavior at night -- when malaria mosquitoes are biting -- could be key to preventing lingering cases.

Widely used malaria treatment to prevent malaria in pregnant women
A global team of researchers, led by a research team at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), are calling for a review of drug-based strategies used to prevent malaria infections in pregnant women, in areas where there is widespread resistance to existing antimalarial medicines.

Protection against Malaria: A matter of balance
A balanced production of pro and anti-inflammatory cytokines at two years of age protects against clinical malaria in early childhood, according to a study led by ISGlobal, an institution supported by ''la Caixa'' Foundation.

The math of malaria
A new mathematical model for malaria shows how competition between parasite strains within a human host reduces the odds of drug resistance developing in a high-transmission setting.

Read More: Malaria News and Malaria Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.