Scientists find drug candidate for TB, malaria

Scientists find drug candidate for TB, malaria

Scientists find drug candidate for TB, malaria

Indian scientists have created a common drug candidate capable of tackling tuberculosis (TB) and malaria–the nation’s two most common health problems–though it will take several years before the breakthrough in the laboratory is translated into a medicine.

A common drug against the two big killer diseases was a dream for scientists for years. But biologists in Delhi have successfully tested the candidate–a peptide (type of protein) molecule called M5–in the laboratory and found that it reduces the diseases load by 80 per cent in TB and malaria.

“It is promising, but several years of research is required before we come anywhere close to trying this molecule as a drug. In the next step, we will test this protein in malaria infected mice to see the response,” Anand Ranganathan, one of the principal investigators at International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), Delhi, told Deccan Herald.

When studied in the laboratory, M5 not only inhibits pathogen's entry to human cells by 80 per cent in case of TB and malaria, but it was also effective against drug resistant-strains of malaria causing Plasmodium Falciparum parasite that has emerged as a public health concern.

Drugs available at present for treatment of both these infections have been failing in cases with resistant strains of pathogens, causing wide-spread alarm.

While globally there was 8.6 million new cases of TB with 1.3 million deaths in 2012, the incidence of malaria, too, is equally staggering at 207 million cases with 6, 27,000 deaths.

“We were looking at an universal target and found M5 is promising.  We will keep on modifying the molecule,” said Gobardhan Das, one of the team members from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

Besides Ranganathan and Das, the team includes Pawan Malhotra of ICGEB and several young researchers from ICGEB, JNU and All India Institute of Medical Sciences. The research findings have been published in the January 14 issue of “Nature Communications”.

“It is a fantastic paper, though drug development is a log way off. Four young groups have come together for this important discovery, breaking the boundary of academic institutions,” said Samir K Brahmachari, former director-general of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.

The Delhi team pursued an innovative approach as the target was a host (human) protein, rather than one in the pathogen. “Most drugs target pathogenic proteins. As a result, after few years the pathogen becomes resistant to the drugs. This will not happen with M5,” said Ranganathan.

M5, on the other hand, targets two human proteins ICAM-1 (TB) and its cousin ICAM-4 (malaria) and inhibits the invasion of human cells of two very different pathogens significantly.
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