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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 October 2006, 18:58 GMT 19:58 UK
Top award for malaria scientist
The malaria parasite is spread by mosquitoes
A University of Liverpool scientist has scooped a top award for research into developing treatments to fight malaria.

Dr Alexis Nzila scooped 5,000 plus a 60,000 grant from the Royal Society, an independent science academy, to fund further scientific research.

As well as helping treat malaria, the Pfizer Award also marks his work into discovering the similarities between cancer and the mosquito-borne disease.

His research has so far been used to fight malaria in Kenya and Nigeria.

Both cancer cells and the malaria parasite multiply readily and rely upon the availability of vitamins called folates in order to grow.

Successful evidence

Dr Nzila provided evidence that low and non-toxic antifolate anticancer drugs, such as methotrexate, could be used in combination with folate molecules to treat malaria.

But by also comparing the role of these vitamins in cancer cells to their function in malaria, Dr Nzila was able to understand their function more clearly - particularly their role in causing resistance to a popular malaria drug.

Fansidar, an antifolate treatment, is used to inhibit the production of folate molecules to prevent malaria from multiplying but the malaria parasite can develop resistance to the drug.

By monitoring changes in the enzyme genes, Dr Nzila found it was possible to predict if a parasite would be resistant to Fansidar.

He also discovered a new way of treating the disease by using a non-toxic compound called probenecid which can be used in combination with Fansidar to reverse the parasite's ability to resist drug treatment.

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