The assay is based on fluorochrome binding to parasite double stranded DNA. Pico Green, a powerful fluorochrome developed by Invitrogen Corporation's Molecular Probes business enables detection of the malaria parasite in cell culture without the need for radioactive materials used in current methods. The new assay will be attractive in developing countries where access and disposal of radioactive tracers is prohibitively expensive as well as in the many developed-world labs that prefer non-radioactive reagents.
The new method will be attractive to researchers because it is relatively inexpensive, easy to implement in biodiverse developing countries and most importantly, safe according to Yolanda Corbett who developed the assay in Dr. Eduardo Ortega's lab: "A fluorescent DNA probe is safer and is a novel approach in the sense that red blood cells don't have DNA, so we could quantify the parasite in microtiter plates."
Malaria kills more than a million people each year in Africa alone and threatens nearly 40 percent of the world's population. The major impediment to malaria control is the cost and distribution of antimalarial drugs. Every year, antimalarial treatments become less effective as drug resistant strains of the malaria parasite develop, making the discovery of new antimalarials essential in this fight against the disease.