News Brief: Data Released on Drug Combinations to Treat Malaria

Current medical treatments for a variety of diseases — including cancer, infectious diseases and brain disorders — involve administering multiple drugs, an approach known as combination therapy. One particular disease that responds well to combination therapies is malaria, a serious infection spread by mosquitoes. Malaria affects 200 million people worldwide each year, causing more than 500,000 deaths.

Anopheles freeborni mosquito pumping blood.

Anopheles freeborni mosquito pumping blood. (CDC Photo)

Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) are recommended by the World Health Organization for first-line treatment of uncomplicated malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum, a common and deadly parasite. These malaria medications have proven remarkably effective, but drug resistance to the treatments is on the rise, creating an urgent need for better treatments.

To help address the challenges, NCATS researchers and collaborators from the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Georgetown University, and the University of California, San Francisco, have released a large dataset of potential drug combinations for malaria. Using NCATS’ state-of-the-art high-throughput combination drug-screening platform, the Center’s researchers tested 13,910 combinations of known and newly identified antimalarial drugs in three malaria parasite lines. The results were published in the September 25 issue of Scientific Reports.

The screening analyses done by the research team not only led to the identification of new ACTs but also provided insights into the basic biology of malaria that the research community can use further. NCATS has made the entire dataset, including information on 4,600 drug combinations, freely available to the scientific community. Explore the data.

“The outcomes of these screens are a first step,” said NCATS scientist Craig Thomas, Ph.D., senior author of the study. “There’s a lot left to do, but the positive results detailed here highlight the value of combination screening. We hope the public release of the dataset offers a resource for scientists studying this disease to mine and explore new aspects of malaria and potential therapies.”


Posted September 2015