Researchers in SA discover potential cure for malaria


CAPE TOWN-based researchers believe they have found a compound that has the potential to become the world’s first single-dose cure for malaria that has no side effects.

Last week South Africa’s science and technology minister Naledi Pandor announced the exciting discovery, describing it as a “significant victory” in the ongoing struggle to tackle the burden of disease in Africa.

The World Malaria Report 2011 says that most of the 216 million cases and 655,000 deaths recorded in 2010 occurred in sub-Saharan Africa. The disease accounted for 24 per cent of total child deaths in the region that year.

“I am excited by the role that our excellent scientists have played in finding a potential single-dose cure for malaria,” Mrs Pandor said last week.

“This is evidence both of top science undertaken in South Africa and also the power of continental and international scientific collaboration in addressing the societal challenges of our time,” she added.

The new molecule named MMV390048 has yet to be tested on humans. But the lead researcher on the collaborative project, Prof Kelly Chibale, said animal studies had shown “potent activity against multiple points in the malaria parasite’s lifecycle”.

The research was conducted by University Cape Town’s drug discovery and development centre but also involved Switzerland-based Medicines for Malaria Venture, the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute and Monash University in Australia.