New Novartis drug cures malaria in mice

Scientists at the Novartis Institute of Tropical Diseases say they have solid evidence from animal studies to support their belief that they are on the trail of the first new class of drugs to treat malaria in 30 years.

Researchers were alarmed by some clear signs last year that malaria drugs derived from artemisinin are losing their ability to fight the parasite, which afflicts millions of people. But after three years of work, they've narrowed a large group of potential new therapies to the class of chemicals called spiroindolones. In a recent mouse study, one of their new therapies worked to cure malaria at lower doses than the therapy currently in use. The highest dose of NITD609 eradicated the parasite in all the animals injected with the drug.

"This could be a promising new class of antimalarials," writes Nick White, a professor in Bangkok. White was responding to a query from Bloomberg. Human studies are expected to get under way later this year.

"We welcome a new class of drug because it could help us stay one step ahead of the parasite," Robert Newman, director of the global malaria program at the World Health Organization, said to the Wall Street Journal. But Newman also noted that it's still early for NITD609, adding that many preclinical therapies never make it to the marketplace.

- here's the WSJ story
- read the Bloomberg report