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Malaria Drugs Offer New Herbicide Targets

Natnarong/Shutterstock.com/Johua Mylne

Natnarong/Shutterstock.com/Johua Mylne

By Joshua Mylne

A relic chloroplast in the malaria parasite opens the prospect of developing a new generation of herbicides from anti-malaria drugs.

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

New research has found that the evolutionary relation­ship between malarial parasites and plants is close enough that many antimalarial drugs are also very good herbicides. This finding will spur new ways of thinking about what new herbicides could be developed, but also offers an opportunity to use plants to study antimalarial drugs.

Malaria: A Military Problem

The original idea for this work was born when I enlisted in the Australian Army Reserve. Although a plant geneticist mostly, as a biochemist of sorts I was admitted to the Army Reserve as a Scientific Officer and assigned to the Army Malaria Institute in Health Service Battalion 2 at Enoggera in Brisbane. Many armies have a malaria wing to them because in recent decades more soldiers have died from malaria than bullets, so investing in malaria expertise is worthwhile for armies. In addition to fitness tests and weapons training I spent time talking to malaria experts and was surprised to hear that malarial parasites (Plasmodium spp.) are more closely related to plants than many people would think.

In the 1990s, several groups discovered that Plasmodium contains an organelle that looks a lot like a plant chloroplast. Its name is the apicoplast, but it sometimes gets called a relic chloroplast, and it is a visible reminder that the malaria parasite is derived from a single-celled alga like...

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