New Zealand researchers are working on a novel weapon to combat malaria parasites that kill about two million people a year, mostly in the tropics.
A team of chemists at Crown research institute Industrial Research in Lower Hutt is working with Albert Einstein Medical College in the US to exploit the fact that malaria parasites cannot make compounds called purines needed for reproduction.
The parasites must salvage and recycle purines from the red blood cells of their human "host".
The project is partly funded by Swiss non-profit organisation Medicines for Malaria and its drug discovery and technology director, New Zealander Ian Bathurst.
Industrial Research, in collaboration with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, has designed and synthesised a new class of compounds it calls "immucillins", one dose of which could provide a month's protection from malaria.
Potentially the immucillins could help clinicians reduce the effects of a range of auto-immune conditions such as arthritis, prevent rejection in organ transplants, and even provide a treatment of T-cell cancers.