Research Highlight

Combo therapy for malaria

doi:10.1038/nindia.2009.100 Published online 13 April 2009

Researchers have developed a new combination therapy that effectively stalls the growth of parasites that causes malignant malaria1. The researchers have combined artemisinin with a type of organic compounds known as chalcones. This opens the possibility of novel artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs).

The resistance of malaria parasite (Plasmodium falciparum) to more available, safe, and easily administered drugs, especially chloroquine and pyrimethamine-sulfadoxine (SP), has become a serious obstacle to the control of malaria. Though artemisinin in combination with other drugs has been the choice of treatment, future threat of resistance to such combination remains.

To avert this, the researchers turned their attention to chalcones, a class of organic compounds that are key constituents of important biological compounds. In lab studies, red blood cells infected with malaria parasite were exposed to combinations of artemisinin and three most potent chalcones.

Chalcones combined with artemisinin decreased hemozoin formation in red blood cells infected with malaria parasite. The parasites convert free heme into an insoluble crystalline form called hemozoin, a promising drug target to inhibit their growth. Chalcones act on broad range of asexual stages of the parasite.

This is the first report showing anti-malarial interactions between artemisinin and synthetic chalcones, the researchers say.


  1. Bhattacharya, A. et al. Antimalarial pharmacodynamics of chalcone derivatives in combination with artemisinin against Plasmodium falciparum in vitro. Eur. J. Med. Chem. doi:  10.1016/j.ejmech.2009.02.008 (2009)