Chemicals found in seaweed 'could help combat malaria'

Scientific Developments/Breakthroughs

New pharmaceutical treatments for malaria could be developed based on a group of chemical compounds found in seaweed.

Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have discovered that bromophycolides - which are used by the aquatic organism to combat fungal infection - can offer a range of promising anti-malarial properties.

It is thought that the mechanism used by the chemical to protect the seaweed from attack could be co-opted to function in humans, with tests among mice currently being planned.

The researchers noted that the chances of the molecule being able to benefit human physiology is "relatively small", as is the case with many potential drug compounds.

However, Georgia Tech associate professor Julia Kubanek said: "There are only a couple of drugs left that are effective against malaria ... so we are hopeful that these molecules will continue to show promise as we develop them further as pharmaceutical leads."

According to a December 2010 World Health Organization report, there has been a major increase in anti-malaria programmes between 2008 and 2010, leading to a fall in confirmed cases in many African nations.

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