Research ArticleMalaria

Quinolone-3-Diarylethers: A New Class of Antimalarial Drug

Science Translational Medicine  20 Mar 2013:
Vol. 5, Issue 177, pp. 177ra37
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3005029

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Taking the Bite Out of Malaria

Malaria is spread from person to person by mosquitoes that inject 8 to 10 sporozoite forms of the parasite in a single bite. The sporozoites reproduce in the liver to produce 10,000 to 30,000 merozoites before the liver schizont ruptures and parasites flood into the bloodstream where the absolute parasite burden may increase to a thousand billion (1012) circulating parasites. Some of these parasites develop into gametocytes that may be ingested by another mosquito where they progress through ookinete, oocyst, and sporozoite stages to complete the cycle.

Like quinine, most antimalarial drugs in use today target only the symptomatic blood stage. The efficacy of these drugs has been compromised by resistance, and so there is a pressing need for new drugs that target multiple stages of the parasite life cycle for use in malaria treatment and prevention. Clearly, it is advantageous to strike at the liver stage where parasite numbers are low, to diminish the likelihood of selecting for a resistant mutant and before the infection has a chance to weaken the defenses of the human host.

In a new study, Nilsen and colleagues describe ELQ-300, a 4(1H)-quinolone-3-diarylether, which targets the liver and blood stages, including the forms that are crucial to disease transmission (gametocytes, zygotes, and ookinetes). In mouse models of malaria, a single oral dose of 0.03 mg/kg prevented sporozoite-induced infections, whereas four daily doses of 1 mg/kg achieved complete cures of patent infections. ELQ-300 is a preclinical candidate that may be coformulated with other antimalarials to prevent and treat malaria, with the potential to aid in eradication of the disease.