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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 June, 2003, 14:42 GMT 15:42 UK
Scientists starve malaria parasite
Scientists have discovered a way to kill the malaria parasite - by targeting its sweet tooth.

Mosquitoes spread malaria
New treatments are urgently needed
Malaria kills 3,000 children every day and the parasite that causes the disease is becoming harder to treat as it develops resistance to more and more drugs.

So scientists are striving to come up with new ways to combat the killer.

A team from St George's Hospital Medical School in London, UK, are confident they have come up with one such solution.

The malaria parasite needs sugar in the form of glucose to grow and multiply in human red blood cells where it lives.

This new information gives us the potential to design new drugs against malaria
Professor Sanjeev Krishna
The St George's team has effectively starved the parasite of its supply by knocking out a specialised transport protein that it uses to absorb glucose from its surroundings.

With its supply lines cut, even drug resistant strains of the parasite cannot survive.


Lead researcher Professor Sanjeev Krishna said: "We have spent 10 years developing new ways of studying parasite transport proteins so that we could work out how to block the action of the glucose transporter.

"This discovery proves for the first time that it is worth going after transport proteins of the malaria parasite and that parasites cannot live without this transporter working properly.

"We are very excited about this research, as this new information gives us the potential to design new drugs against malaria."

Professor David Warhurst, of the Health Protection Agency malaria reference laboratory, said the research could be very significant.

He said: "We are absolutely desperate for any new drugs to use against malaria because of the widespread development of resistance.

"If they can use this research to develop a specific drug then that would be an excellent way of targeting the malaria parasite because it uses an awful lot of glucose, and relies on transport proteins for its supply."

The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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