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Blocking a protein would starve the parasite responsible for malaria


Researchers found that neutralizing the PfPX1 protein reduced growth by more than 75% in vitro of Plasmodium falciparumthe protozoan that causes the most virulent form of malaria.

We have shown in our work that this protein was super important for the parasite to be able to transport hemoglobin into an organism, the digestive vacuole.explained Dave Richard, professor at the Faculty of Medicine of Laval University and researcher at the Research Center of the CHU de Québec-Université Laval.

This is interesting because, currently, there is no agent against [le paludisme] which would precisely target the hemoglobin transport step.

The malaria parasite is transmitted to humans through the bite of a mosquito. Once in the body, it takes refuge in red blood cells, where it escapes detection by the immune system and feeds on hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen to the cells of the body.

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However, this parasite needs the PfPX1 protein to transfer hemoglobin to the equivalent of its digestive system, the digestive vacuole mentioned by Mr. Richard. Without this protein, it is unable to feed itself. And since the PfPX1 protein is not present in humans, we could block its action without risking harm to the patient.

We could therefore consider the development, in a few years, of a drug that would prevent the parasite from feeding on the blood of its victims, which would lead to its death.

The challenge will now be to find the necessary funding for the development of this therapy, which is not always easy when we know the lack of appetite of the big pharmaceutical companies for the development of drugs that will mainly address to the world’s poorest people.

Often in our field it’s going to be the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundationsaid Mr. Richard. They really give a lot of money precisely for the development of drugs and vaccines against more neglected diseases.

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Malaria infected some 241 million people in 2020, killing 627,000. The World Health Organization approved a first vaccine against the disease last year, but as the coronavirus pandemic has starkly reminded us, dangerous new strains can always emerge.

Strains resistant to artemisinin, the main antiparasitic used against malaria, have also appeared in Southeast Asia.

In addition to Université Laval, the researchers who signed the article published in the journal mBio are attached to Purdue University, the University of Alberta, the Biology Center of the Czech Academy of Sciences, and the University of Notre Dame.

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