Researchers from the Australian National University (ANU) and colleagues have uncovered a raft of molecules capable of disabling a molecular salt pump on the surface of the malaria parasite.

Disabling the pump causes the parasite to fill up with salt, causing it to swell and burst, reported.

The finding is important because the malaria parasite had become resistant to nearly all of the drugs currently available, Professor Kiaran Kirk, dean of ANU College of Medicine, Biology and Environment, said.

It is estimated that there are more than two million cases of malaria each year and over 500,000 people, mostly children under the age of five, die from the disease, researchers said.

"We've discovered what seems to be a fatal weakness in the parasite," Kirk said.

"The salt pump clearly plays a crucial role in the parasite's survival, and what we have shown is that there are many different types of molecules that can stop this salt pump from working, and which thereby kill the parasite. This pump would seem to be a real Achilles heel," said Kirk.

The group has shown two new highly-promising antimalarials work by causing a salt overload in the parasite.   

"Each of these are completely different molecules, yet both kill the parasite very effectively and very quickly, through the same mechanism," Kirk said.

"The first of the salt pump blockers is well on the way towards being developed as an anti-malarial drug," said Kirk.

Latest News from Lifestyle News Desk