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Researchers testing malaria drugs in Brisbane

Researchers at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) will be testing new malaria drugs and vaccines using human volunteers infected with a very small controlled dose of malaria parasites.

Lead physician and QIMR researcher Professor James McCarthy said new ways are urgently needed to test emerging drugs and vaccines that have the potential to treat malaria, a disease responsible for up to a million deaths per year throughout the world.

“While many new drugs and vaccines are being developed it is very difficult to determine which are the best ones to take to field testing in areas impacted by malaria,” Professor McCarthy said.

“This clinical trial follows on from our recent work, where we investigated the efficacy of anti-malarial drugs by trying them in human volunteers whom we infected with a low dose of malaria parasites.

“This time we will not only be looking at improving anti-malarial drugs and developing vaccines, but we will also be closely analysing the immune response to measure the efficacy of these treatments.”

The research requires 16 healthy male volunteers between the ages of 18 and 45. They will receive an injection containing a very low dose of malaria parasites (Plasmodium falciparum).

“Undertaking this trial is a way for people to make a difference to the lives of millions and participants will be closely monitored and very well cared for,” Professor McCarthy said.

“Participants will receive only 150 parasites from a controlled sample we have developed. This is actually less than a 200th of the amount that reaches the blood when someone catches malaria from a mosquito.

“The volunteers will then be closely followed using a very sensitive test that measures the DNA of malaria parasites in the blood. This allows us to treat the volunteers with antimalarial drugs before they become sick.

“Our volunteers will finish the trial without a trace of malaria in their body.”

This study is being conducted at Q-Pharm Pty Limited. It has been approved by QIMR’s Human Research Ethics Committee.

Anyone interested in volunteering for the study can contact Q-Pharm on 1300 QPHARM (1300 774 276). Volunteers will be reimbursed for their time and closely monitored throughout the treatment.