Home' Australian Pharmacist : Australian Pharmacist October 2014 Contents Australian Pharmacist October 2014 I ©Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd.
Malaria weakness could lead
A new study has revealed a weak spot in the complex life cycle of malaria,
which could be exploited to prevent the disease spreading.
It found female malaria parasites
accumulate fat differently from males.
Associate Professor Alexander Maier,
from the ANU Research School of
Biology said the study opened potential
new ways to combat malaria.
He said: ‘Malaria parasites show
resistance to all current anti-malarial
drugs. We are losing our weapons
against this very important disease.
But by studying lipid molecules – fats
– rather than proteins or DNA we have
opened a new avenue to develop drug
treatments for malaria.’
More than half a million people die
of malaria every year and 40% of
the world’s population is at risk of
contracting the disease.
The spread of malaria by mosquitoes is
a surprisingly inefficient process. Nearly
all the parasites ingested by a mosquito
in a meal of infected red blood cells
are killed by the mosquito’s digestive
processes, and so are not passed on to
A tiny percentage survive – the one
in 10,000 that have developed into a
more sophisticated form of the malaria
parasite, called gametocytes, which
resist digestion and then breed inside
Associate Professor Maier’s team found
that a molecule called gABCG2, which
controls the transport of fat molecules,
played a key role in this process.
‘Female parasites build a deposit of fat
in a localised spot, which is controlled by
gABCG2,’ Assoc Prof Maier said.
‘However, malaria genetically modified
to have no gABCG2 did not accumulate
fat in the same way, and crucially,
struggled to survive in the mosquito.’
Co-researcher Dr Phuong Tran said that
the discovery of the role of fats within
the gametocyte could lead to new
malaria drugs, based on current drugs
which influence fat digestion, such as
‘If we can target the molecule gABCG2
and kill the females then we can stop
the fertilisation, which will stop the
development and transmission of the
disease,’ Dr Tran said. ‘It may even lead to
a vaccine for malaria.’
The research team included scientists
from ANU, the University of Wollongong,
University of Melbourne and the Max-
Planck-Institute in Berlin. The results are
published in Nature Communications.
BY JESSICA VERNON
Budget cuts, downsizing, more
graduates than jobs – I can’t tell you
how many times I heard these phrases
throughout my 12 month internship.
It seemed that as I was moving further
towards my registration, there was increasing
uncertainty as to whether I’d even be able to
attain a pharmacist position. Hearing about
the caps introduced on MedsCheck and HMR
services, price disclosure and the rising costs
of running a pharmacy, it’s easy to see why
early career pharmacists, and in particular
fresh graduates, may have a doom and
For better or for worse, the practice of
pharmacy has to change. We have the
opportunity to drive this change and use it to
diversify our roles. In my (extremely limited)
time in the hospital pharmacy setting,
I have worked with some truly remarkable
pharmacists. I have also been lucky enough
to visit patients in their homes as part of a
community outreach program staffed by an
allied health team including pharmacists.
I have seen how much of an impact a brilliant
pharmacist can have on a medical specialty,
in particular surrounding antimicrobial
stewardship. We have the knowledge and
the skill set to make a real difference in
many areas of health. We all know we are
the primary point of care in community
pharmacy, a role that positions us perfectly
to provide preventive health care checks
and thorough, accurate information to
We may be facing adversity in the form of a
government that does not fully understand
the lives pharmacists can impact, (let alone
the money we could save!) but I truly think
there is a positive and bright future for
pharmacy – a future which needs passionate
early career pharmacists.
Jessica Vernon is a first year pharmacist at Sir Charles
Gairdner Hospital in Perth WA.
» EARLY CAREER PHARMACIST FOCUS
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