Developing new antimalarial drugs that block protein trafficking

Developing new antimalarial drugs that block protein trafficking and host cell modification in malaria parasites

Malaria is a devastating parasitic disease that infects hundreds of millions of people each year, tragically killing about half a million, mainly children.

Antimalarial drugs are the main weapons used to combat infection but alarmingly parasites are starting to become resistant to the latest frontline drugs.

For this reason new drug targets need to be identified and new medicines developed.

Thankfully thousands of potent parasite killing compounds have been discovered, but their targets in the parasite are unknown.

One potential suite of targets is the protein trafficking pathways used by parasites to shuttle proteins around not only their own cells, but also those of the human red blood host cells (RBC) they infect.

These so-called exported proteins modify the RBCs so the parasite can evade host immunity and rapidly reproduce.

We have discovered several drugs that not only block parasite protein trafficking, but also prevent the parasite from taking up nutrients via the RBC.

These drugs cause parasite death and the aim of this project is to help evaluate the biological targets of these drugs and how to make the drugs more potent and specific for potential clinical applications.

Techniques and methods will include Parasite cell culture, drug assays, fluorescence microscopy, functional assays, molecular biology skills (e.g., PCR and cloning), parasite transfection.

Contact Details

For any general enquiries relating to this project, please contact:

Associate Professor Paul Gilson

Deputy Discipline Head, Life Sciences; Co-Head, Malaria Virulence and Drug Discovery Group; Head of Burnet Cell Imaging Facility