AFRICAN HEALTH DIALOGUES: Prospects of Conquering Malaria

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 ABOUT THIS WEEK’S EPISODE:

Researchers in the fight against malaria have three major goals: new medicines, better methods of mosquito control, and a vaccine to prevent people from becoming infected. Medicines to treat malaria have been around for thousands of years. Perhaps the best known of the traditional remedies is quinine, which is derived from the bark of the cinchona tree. The Spanish learned about quinine from Peruvian Indians in the 1600s, and export of quinine to Europe, and later the United States, was a lucrative business until World War II cut off access to the world supply of cinchona bark. In the 1940s, an intensive research program to find alternatives to quinine gave rise to the manufacture of chloroquine and numerous other chemical compounds that became the forerunners of "modern" antimalarial drugs.

Unfortunately, malaria parasites in many geographic regions have become resistant to alternative drugs, many of which were discovered only in the last 30 years. Even quinine, the long-lived mainstay of malaria treatment, is losing its effectiveness in certain areas.

To address the problem of drug-resistant malaria, scientists are conducting research on the genetic devices that enable Plasmodium parasites to avoid the toxic effects of malaria drugs. Understanding how those devices work should enable scientists to develop new medicines or alter existing ones to make it more difficult for drug resistance to emerge. By knowing how the parasite survives and interacts with people during each distinct phase of its development, researchers also hope to develop drugs that attack the parasite at different stages. In this episode, we will discuss treating and preventing malaria and what stage we are in conquering the disease. 

 

Host: Dr. Ladi Owolabi 
Host: Dr. Susanna J. Dodgson

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