Does Plasmodium falciparum have an Achilles' Heel?
Liao Y Chen*
Department of Physics, University of Texas at San Antonio, One UTSA Circle, San Antonio, Texas 78249 USA
- *Corresponding Author:
- Liao Y Chen, PhD
Professor, Department of Physics
One UTSA Circle, San Antonio
Texas 78249, USA
Tel: +210 458-5457
E-mail: [email protected]
Received Date: January 23, 2014; Accepted Date: March 28, 2014; Published Date: April 05, 2014
Citation: Liao Y Chen (2014) Does Plasmodium falciparum have an Achilles' Heel?. Malar Chemoth Cont Elimination 3:114. doi: 10.4172/2090-2778.1000114
Copyright: © 2014 Y Chen, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Plasmodium falciparum is the parasite that causes the most severe form of malaria responsible for nearly a million deaths a year. Currently, science has been established about its cellular structures, its metabolic processes, and even the molecular structures of its intrinsic membrane proteins responsible for transporting water, nutrient, and waste molecules across the Parasite Plasma Membrane (PPM). Based on the molecular structure of the parasite’s membrane and the quantitative mechanics of how erythritol interacts with the multi-functional channel protein expressed in the PPM, I hypothesize that Plasmodium falciparum has an Achilles’ heel that can be attacked with erythritol, the well-known sweetener that is classified as generally safe. Most organisms have in their cell membrane two types of water-channel proteins: aquaporins to maintain hydro-homeostasis across the membrane and aquaglyceroporins to uptake glycerols etc. In contrast, P. falciparum has only one type of such proteins---the multifunctional aquaglyceroporin (PfAQP) expressed in the PPM to do both jobs. Moreover, the parasite also uses PfAQP to excrete its metabolic wastes (ammonia included) produced at a very high rate in the blood stage. This extremely high efficiency of the bug using one protein for multiple essential tasks makes the parasite fatally vulnerable. Erythritol in the blood stream can kill the parasite by clogging up its PfAQP channel that needs to be open for maintaining hydro-homeostasis and for excreting toxic wastes across the bug’s PPM. In vitro tests are to measure the growth/death rate of P. falciparum in blood with various erythritol concentrations. In vivo experiments are to administer groups of infected mice with various doses of erythritol and monitor the parasite growth levels in each group. Moreover, clinic trials can be performed to observe the added effects of administering to patients erythritol along with the known drugs because erythritol was classified as a safe food ingredient.