Background: Malaria, mainly caused by Plasmodium falciparum, results in over 200 million clinical cases a year and approximately 430,000 deaths a year. Tropical and sub-tropical countries have a high incidence of malaria cases because Anopheles mosquitoes thrive in warm temperatures and are able to efficiently transmit the disease. Direct costs associated with malaria are estimated to be 12 billion US dollars a year with indirect costs being many times higher.
Technology Description: Researchers at Washington University have developed and validated a method for treating malaria using a novel combination of therapeutics. This method, called Photodynamic Therapy (PDT), integrates artemisinin, a frontline anti-malarial, as an activator with 5-aminolevulinic acid which is a photosensitizer. This combination emits toxic oxygen radicals when exposed to light emitted by luminol in order to kill intra-erythrocytic and blood-stage parasites. Preliminary data indicate potent anti-malarial activity in ex vivo cultures of the parasite in red blood cells. Furthermore, 5-aminolevulinic acid has been used as a PDT photosensitizer to treat cancer and the proposed combination could be utilized to treat cancer, especially hematologic cancers.
- Low toxicity and low cost
- Decreased dosage amount due to synergy
- Could possibly be used to overcome artemisinin resistance
- Potentially favorable regulatory path
- Useful for deep tissues and hard-to-reach areas
- Targets multiple types of cancer