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Scientists begin trial for multi-drug resistant malaria in Africa

Medical scientists on Monday launched a patient trial for “KAF156”, a next-generation anti-malarial compound with the potential to treat drug-resistant strains of the malaria parasite in Africa.

Global healthcare firms, Novatis and Medicines for Malaria Ventre (MMV) said in a joint statement on that the trial will test the efficacy of “KAF156” in combination with a new, improved formulation of the existing anti-malarial lumefantrine.

“To build on the gains made against malaria since the turn of the century, we need new medicines that are effective across all types of resistance patterns and geographies.

“That are easy to administer, especially to children,” David Reddy, CEO of MMV.

He said with the phase “IIb” trial of “KAF156”-lumefantrine now underway, the MMV-Novartis partnership is drawing closer to the exciting prospect of such a new medicine that would be a powerful tool to fight the disease.

“KAF156” is first compound from the imidazolopiperazines, a new class of anti-malarials, to enter Phase “IIb” combination studies.

In a Phase “IIa” proof-of-concept trial, the compound was fast-acting and potent across multiple stages of the parasite’s lifecycle, rapidly clearing both P. falciparum and P. vivax parasites.

The two firms said next-generation anti-malarials are urgently needed to tackle rising parasite resistance to current therapies.

Emergence of resistance to both artemisinin and many partner drugs has been reported in Asia, and reduced sensitivity to artemisinin has also been sporadically reported in Africa.

The first trial centre is operational in Mali and will be followed by sixteen additional centres across a total of nine countries in Africa and Asia over the next few months by Novartis and MMV.

Compound has potential to be a game-changer in malaria elimination, rapidly clearing malaria infection, including resistant strains, and blocking parasite transmission.

Vas Narasimhan, Global Head of Drug Development and Chief Medical Officer, Novartis said the new milestone underscores the company’s long-standing commitment to the fight against malaria.

“With nearly half of the world’s population at risk, malaria continues to be a major public health challenge.

“Developing new antimalarial medicines is critical to achieving malaria elimination.

“Innovative science continues to be our best weapon against the disease,” Narasimhan said.

The study will test multiple dosing combinations and dosing schedules of KAF156 and lumefantrine, including the feasibility of a single dose therapy in adults, adolescents and children.

As children are the most vulnerable to malaria, the goal is to include them in the clinical trial as quickly as possible, following safety review of the data generated in adults, thereby potentially accelerating the development of a pediatric formulation.

The partnership between MMV and Novartis builds on a long-standing successful collaboration in antimalarial drug development, which led to the launch in 2009 of the first high-quality artemisinin combination therapy for children.

NAN reports that according to the latest WHO estimates, released in December 2016, there were 212 million cases of malaria in 2015 and 429 000 deaths.

The WGO said between 2010 and 2015, malaria incidence among populations at risk fell by 21 per cent globally; during the same period, malaria mortality rates among populations at risk decreased by 29 per cent.

The world gealth body said an estimated 6.8 million malaria deaths have been averted globally since 2001.

The WHO said the African region continues to carry a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden.

In 2015, WHO said the region was home to 90 per cent of malaria cases and 92 per cent of malaria deaths.

Some 13 countries, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, WHO said account for 76% of malaria cases and 75% deaths globally.

In areas with high transmission of malaria, children under five are particularly susceptible to infection, illness and death; more than two thirds (70 per cent) of all malaria deaths occur in this age group.

Between 2010 and 2015, the WHO said the under-five malaria death rate fell by 29 per cent globally.

However malaria remains a major killer of children under five years old, taking the life of a child every two minutes.(Xinhua/NAN)

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