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New, non-radioactive screen for antimalarial compounds

Panama City, Panama, Feb. 16, 2004--Panama's International Cooperative Biodiversity Group (ICBG) announces the development of a new test for identification of antimalarial compounds with wide applicability in the developing world. The assay for plant-derived compounds also can be used to detect anti-plasmodial compounds from synthetic or natural sources. Initial results of the research are published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene under the title "A Novel DNA-Based Microfluorometric Method to Evaluate Antimalarial Drug Activity".

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.

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Contact: Beth King
kingb@tivoli.si.edu
202-786-2094 x8216
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
16-Feb-2004


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