Triclosan, a common antiseptic used in household products such as toothpaste, skin creams, and deodorants, kills the parasites responsible for malaria and toxoplasmosis, even at very low concentrations, reports a team of researchers from the United States and the United Kingdom in the February issue of the International Journal for Parasitology.
Triclosan has been used as an antiseptic since the 1960s. It blocks an enzyme, known as "FabI," that bacteria need to manufacture the fatty acids used in cell membranes. Because animals possess a very different set of enzymes, triclosan does not interfere with this process in humans. This has led to its widespread use in over-the-counter preparations used on the skin or in the mouth.
This common, inexpensive antimicrobial is remarkably effective against these parasites at concentrations that have no detectable toxicity, said first author Rima McLeod, M.D., the Jules and Doris Stein Research to Prevent Blindness Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Chicago.
"That's good news because we urgently need new and better medicines to treat malaria and toxoplasmosis," she added. "The parasites that cause malaria are resistant to many of the available drugs, and there is no medication that affects the latent life-cycle stages of the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis."
"This finding gives us a blueprint to design an effective and safe new drug," said Craig Roberts of the University of Strathclyde, UK.
Malaria affects more than 300 million people worldwide and kills an estimated 3,000 people, mostly children, each day. Although most cases originate in the tropics, there has been a steady increase in U.S. and European repo
Contact: John Easton
University of Chicago Medical Center