Researchers find new malaria treatment

May 24, 2012

An international team of researchers including members of SFU molecular scientist Fiona Brinkman’s lab has discovered a new class of drugs for treating particularly severe malaria.

“This new therapy works in conjunction with anti-malarial drugs, essentially dampening down the damaging inflammation that the immune system produces—acting as a novel anti-inflammatory, ” says Brinkman, a professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

“As with many infections, what can cause fatality is actually our immune system becoming too damaging, rather than the infectious microbe directly causing damage.”

Brinkman says the new therapy can significantly reduce fatalities in severe malaria, providing new hope for radically improved treatment of the illness.

Recent SFU postdoc David Lynn of Brinkman’s lab led the SFU research component. His bioinformatics work entailed advanced computer-based analyses of genes to work out how to better use a preclinical screen to establish the value of the new class of anti-inflammatory drugs.

Malaria is a serious global health problem with an estimated 1.2 million dying from the disease annually. Imported cases into developed countries are rising and survivors of severe malaria can face long term debilitating neurological and physical effects.

Fatality rates for severe malaria are high because anti-malarial drugs act against the malaria parasite without alleviating life-threatening inflammation.

News of the research breakthrough was featured May 23 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

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