Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Resurrecting a Wonder Drug

African clawed frog

Eggs from the African clawed frog have enabled scientists to determine how malaria parasites developed resistance to chloroquine.

By Tegan Dolstra

As the malaria parasite pits its all against the only treatment still standing, award-winning research has revealed the secret to reviving the most successful antimalarial drug in history.

Tegan Dolstra is a PhD student in the Australian National University’s Research School of Biology.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

More than one million people die from malaria every year, but this figure could be about to expand dramatically. The parasite responsible for 95% of fatal malaria cases has begun to develop resistance to artemisinin, the only undefeated treatment available. In the absence of a vaccine, the spread of artemisinin resistance through the parasite population will spell disaster.

A back-up drug is desperately needed, and former wonder drug chloroquine is an ideal candidate. Developed in the 1930s, this cheap, safe and effective drug was the first choice malaria treatment for three decades before the parasites caught up. Following the emergence and irrepressible spread of chloroquine-resistant parasites around the world, chloroquine is now ineffective in most cases.

We have recently uncovered the mechanism driving chloroquine resistance. This discovery has the potential to act as a basis for the design of new chloroquine-like drugs that bypass the resistance mechanism and resurrect the wonder drug to its former position as a frontline therapy.

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The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.