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Scots scientists in 'single dose' malaria treatment breakthrough

An antimalarial drug that could treat patients was discovered by Dundee university scientists

Malaria is spread by mosquito bites.
© STV

Scientists have discovered an antimalarial compound that could treat malaria patients in a single dose and help prevent the spread of the disease from infected people.

The compound DDD107498 also has the potential to treat patients with malaria parasites resistant to current medications, researchers say.

Scientists hope it could lead to treatments and protection against the disease, which claimed almost 600,000 lives amid 200 million reported cases in 2013.

The compound was identified through a collaboration between the University of Dundee's drug discovery unit (DDU) and the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), a separate organisation.

The compound is now undergoing further safety testing with a view to entering human clinical trials within the next year.

Details of the discovery have been published in the journal Nature.

Professor Ian Gilbert, head of chemistry at the DDU, who led the team that discovered the compound, said: "The publication describes the discovery and profiling of this exciting new compound.

"It reveals that DDD107498 has the potential to treat malaria with a single dose, prevent the spread of malaria from infected people and protect a person from developing the disease in the first place.

"There is still some way to go before the compound can be given to patients. However, we are very excited by the progress that we have made."

The World Health Organisation reports that there were 200 million clinical cases of malaria in 2013, with 584,000 people dying from the disease. Most of these deaths were children under the age of five and pregnant women.

MMV chief executive officer Dr David Reddy said: "Malaria continues to threaten almost half of the world's population - the half that can least afford it.

"DDD107498 is an exciting compound since it holds the promise to not only treat but also protect these vulnerable populations.

"The collaboration to identify and progress the compound, led by the drug discovery unit at the University of Dundee, drew on MMV's network of scientists from Melbourne to San Diego."The publication of the research is an important step and a clear testament to the power of partnership."

MMV selected DDD107498 to enter preclinical development in October 2013 following the recommendation of its expert scientific advisory committee.

Since then, with MMV's leadership, large quantities of the compound have been produced and it is undergoing further safety testing with a view to entering human clinical trials within the next year.

Merck Serono has recently obtained the right to develop and, if successful, commercialise the compound, with the input of MMV's expertise in the field of malaria drug development and access and delivery in malaria-endemic countries.

Dr Michael Chew from the Wellcome Trust, which provides funding for the DDU and MMV, said: "The need for new antimalarial drugs is more urgent than ever before, with emerging strains of the parasite now showing resistance against the best available drugs.

"These strains are already present at the Myanmar-Indian border and it's a race against time to stop resistance spreading to the most vulnerable populations in Africa.

"The discovery of this new antimalarial agent, which has shown remarkable potency against multiple stages of the malaria lifecycle, is an exciting prospect in the hunt for viable new treatments."

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