Optimizing Chloroquine to Make a Better Drug to Fight Malaria
Abstract: Malaria has haunted man for centuries. Humanities experiments in drugs
allowed for the discovery of chloroquine, perhaps the most successful cure against the
parasitic infection. However, a new strain of malaria, plasmodium falciparum, has
proven to be resistant against chloroquine and other cures we have for this virulent
disease. Should man then cast aside this antique drug? Not before trying to optimize it
to once again combat malaria.
There has been a disease that has never been completely assessed nor
understood, yet it has been a scourge to humanity for centuries. Consequently, it has
never quite been fought off. Malaria has haunted man for millennium, and even today
we are really unable to claim conquest over it, as it still infects millions of victims every
year, killing close to a million each year (WebMed). How then has malaria been nearly
eradicated in North America and Europe? There are drugs that fight malaria, the most
famous of which is probably chloroquine, one of the oldest drugs made by man.
Chloroquine is one of now several drugs that have fought malaria to the tropics, but now
has become almost useless against a new, drug resistant strain of malaria, Plasmodium
falciparum. P. falciparum has perhaps come to claim the title of the most virulent strain
of malaria as well. Today it is certainly the deadliest, requiring specialized treatment that
might not exist in the poorer tropic regions where it is most rampant. Even now,
research against this strain of malaria is ongoing, in the hope to find a cure. Where can
this be found? One of the most explored methods is optimizing the drugs we have,
particularly chloroquine. In order to make a stronger antimalarial drug, malaria must be
To fight malaria, one has to understand malaria. Malaria is caused by the
mosquito borne parasite plasmodium. Once it enters the bloodstream, the parasite
makes its first home in the liver: but how it gets there is not really certain. It then waits
for favorable conditions, what these conditions are are still being researched, before it
re-enters the bloodstream. There it becomes similar to a tank, almost literally rolling
along the walls of blood vessels (Peeps), before it comes upon a hapless red blood cell.
It then tears into the red blood cell, repairing the membrane as it enters to avoid
detection by the immune system, (Parasite Rex) and begins to consume hemoglobin.
For plasmodium there are a variety of difficulties with this. Although hemoglobin
contains the necessary amino acids required for the parasite to live as well as replicate
itself, heme, or more specifically the iron within heme, means instant death to
plasmodium. Plasmodium has to cut heme and flush it away from the cell. At the same
time, the cell begins to collapse in on itself as its structure is consumed, and
plasmodium has to grow fast and fill up...