In an on-going hunt for a more effective weapon against malaria, international researchers said on Thursday that they are exploring a path that has not been studied so far – devastating parasites in the liver before disease occurs.
"It's very difficult to work on the liver," said Elizabeth Winzeler, a professor of pharmacology and drug discovery at the University of California Medical Medical School.
"We have been traditionally looking for medicines that will welcome malaria," AFP said.
For the latest research published in Science magazine, scientists have uncovered hundreds of thousands of mosquitoes in order to remove parasites.
Each parasite was then insulated in a tube and treated with another chemical compound – 500,000 experiments in all.
The researchers found that some molecules were killed by parasites.
After approximately six years of work, 631 candidate molecules for a "chemical vaccine" were found – usually a vaccine that would allow the body to make antibodies.
"If you could find a drug that you will give at once, which will kill all parasites of malaria in a person, both in the liver and in the bloodstream, and lasts from three to six months. Yes, that would be great, but there is currently no drug , "said Larry Slutsker, head of PATH malaria and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
Reducing the number of doses is crucial.
This is because many of the medicines available today have to be taken over for more than three days, said David Reddy, director of the drug for malaria.
However, often after the first dose, children begin to feel better and heat is reduced. Parents then retain the other two doses in the event that the patient becomes ill for another child.
"It has two effects: first, the child is not being treated properly, and secondly, it builds resistance to drugs," said Reddy.
The disease develops
Malaria is caused by a miniscule parasite called Plasmodium.
Female mosquitoes transmit a parasite when biting people for a meal of blood (men do not bite).
Then the parasite is placed in the liver and multiplied. After a few weeks, the population explodes and parasites run in blood.
At this stage, fever begins, headache and muscle pain, followed by cold sweating and shivering. Without treatment, anemia, respiratory problems, and even death may follow, in the case of Plasmodium falciparum, which is predominant in Africa.
The survey, published on Thursday, offers "a promising path for as long as it takes months," said Jean Gaudart, a public health professor at the Aix-Marseille University.
Gaudart said that new approaches are needed, as resistance to the most effective treatment in Asia with the use of artemizinine originating from Chinese plants has steadily increased in Asia.
"We really need new compounds," he said.
It is now the task of researchers to confirm which of the 631 molecules is truly shot at wiping out the global scourge.
The World Health Organization said last month that global efforts to combat malaria had affected the plateau, with two million more cases of murderous illness in the years 2017 – 219 million – as compared to the previous year.
Malaria last year killed 435,000 people, most of them children under five children in Africa.
The first malaria vaccine for children – called RTS, S – will be divided into those African countries in 2019, although only 40% reduce the risk of malaria after four doses.
Despite spending billions of dollars, the world has not yet found a truly effective solution for malaria.