Tests on a new anti-malarial drug suggest it could be the biggest breakthrough in treatment of the disease for a generation, the British scientific review Nature says in its Thursday edition.
Codenamed OZ, the drug is synthetic and works in the same way as the most effective ant malarial treatment, a Chinese herbal medicine called artemisinin.
"The drug could be the biggest breakthrough in malarial treatment of our generation and could become the most potent weapon against drug-resistant malaria," according to the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV).
"Initial clinical studies in humans have found the drug to be safe and well-tolerated."
"The synthetic drug could be a much cheaper and more effective alternative to the current malaria cures."
"Because OZ is a synthetic drug and does not require the natural plant, like artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), its costs can be significantly reduced and the production of the drug can be easier and quicker to meet the demand," MMV says.
MMV describes itself as a non-profit organization established to discover, develop and deliver new affordable anti-malarial drugs through effective public-private partnerships.
The new drug is currently being developed by MMV's industry partner, Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. in India.
The original drug research was done by a team of researchers from the University of Nebraska, Monash University in Australia, the Swiss Tropical Institute and F. Hoffman Roche of Switzerland.
Drug resistance is a major problem for malaria, which affects nearly 40 per cent of the world's population.
"OZ is currently being tested in humans in the UK for safety, tolerance and drug activity," MMV says.
"The test for its efficacy in malaria patients will begin in January 2005. If successful, it could be the next major weapon in the fight against malaria."
Source: The Australian