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Old cure may offer new malaria option

An herbal-tea remedy for malaria contains a component that may form the basis of a novel drug against the disease, tests in mice show. The compound, called tazopsine, is derived from the bark of a tree (Strychnopsis thouarsii) found in Madagascar's eastern rain forest.

In lab dishes, tazopsine killed the two common malaria parasites Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium yoelii. Tests in mice newly infected with P. yoelii showed that tazopsine given orally protected 70 percent of the animals, the researchers report in the December 2006 PLoS Medicine.

But tazopsine proved toxic at high doses, limiting the amount that could be given. To get around that, the researchers broke down tazopsine into seven constituent parts. They found that one, dubbed NCP-tazopsine, killed the parasite as well as the whole compound did.

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