Malaria is a tropical parasitological disease that remains a global health problem, causing ~.8 million deaths and 250 million cases annually. Expanded control and treatment programs in the past decade have reduced the incidence of the disease and lead to the call for efforts to eliminate, possibly even eradicate, malaria. To do this new strategies are needed that target the sexual stages of the parasites, which are responsible for disease transmission. The current recommended chemotherapy for malaria does not effectively kill mature gametocytes, allowing malaria to be transmitted for more than a week after the clearance of asexual parasites. Previous drug screens used assays that only detected asexual replication and therefore did not monitor activity against gametocytes. We have recently developed a gametocytocidal assay that can be used to screen against both early and late stage gametocytes. The goal of this exploratory R21 proposal is twofold 1) to analyze to the gametocytocidal activity of novel compounds recently found to kill asexual parasites in a high throughput screen and 2) to identify metabolic pathways that are essential for the propagation and spread of gametocytes by screening a library of pharmacologically active inhibitors with known targets. Together these approaches should identify classes of compounds that can be targeted for further drug development, as well as advance our understanding of gametocyte metabolism and facilitate the design of effective control strategies.
The long term goal of this research is to develop drugs that can block malaria transmission from one person to another. Forty percent of the world's population lives in malaria endemic areas and the commonly used antimalarials are not effective against the stages of the parasite that are responsible for the spread of the disease. Drugs that effectively reduce the transmission of malaria will decrease morbidity and mortality, as well as contribute to malaria elimination and eradication efforts.
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