Scientists claim to have discovered a drug that could cure all strains of malaria with a single oral dose and also block transmission of the deadly parasite from person to person.

The compound from the aminopyridine class (code named MMV390048) shows potent activity against multiple points in the malaria parasite’s lifecycle. The drug is the first compound researched on African soil to enter preclinical development in partnership with Medicines for malaria venture (MMV), a not-for-profit public-private partnership, in Switzerland.

The synthetic molecule from the aminopyridine class, which has been described as novel and potent, not only has the potential to become a single-dose cure for malaria, but researchers are convinced that it could block transmission of the malaria parasite from person to person.

The aminopyridine series was initially identified by Griffith University scientists in Australia as part of MMV’s extensive malaria screening campaign of around 6 million compounds. A team of scientists from the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Drug Discovery and Development Centre (H3-D) in South Africa, led by Professor Kelly Chibale then scrutinised and explored the anti-malarial potential of the series further.

With parasitological and pharmacological support from the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute and Monash University, respectively, Kelly’s team selected the most promising compounds from the series to be optimized and re-tested.

In just 18 months the team had identified and developed a candidate suitable for preclinical development.

“We are very excited that this promising compound, researched by African scientists, has been selected by MMV for further development,” Chibale, Founder and Director, UCT H3-D, said.

“This is truly a proud day for African science and African scientists! Our team is hopeful that the compound will emerge from rigorous testing as an extremely effective medicine for malaria — a disease that accounts for 24 per cent of total child deaths in sub-Saharan Africa,” Chibale said.

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