New drug may reduce mortality for patients with severe malaria

Photo: CDC

Publication of new data from Phase I and Phase I/II studies with Sevuparin has been accepted to the journal PlosOne. For the first time, we show that infusions of Sevuparin may inhibit the growth of the parasite Plasmodium falciparum in humans and open up clogged blood vessels. Such studies have previously only reached test tubes and animal models. The studies have been run by Anna Leitgeb at Modus Therapeutics AB, Arjen Dondorp at the Oxford-Mahidol Unit in Thailand and Mats Wahlgren at Karolinska Institutet.

400,000 die annually from severe malaria

Serious malaria occurs when red blood cells infected with the parasite Plasmodium falciparum stick to each other and to the vessel wall. 5-10 million suffer from severe malaria and more than 400,000 die annually. A new drug, sevuparin, has been developed to have the efficacy of heparin without the dangerous anti-coagulation side effects. In humans, IV infusion of sevuparin has been  shown to immediately inhibit (within 60 minutes) the growth of the parasite Plasmodium falciparum and open up clogged blood vessels.

Studies from the 1980s created the idea behind Sevuparin

In the late 1980s it was discovered that clumps of malaria infected and uninfected red blood cells (rosettes) are common in patients with severe malaria (Carlson et al, 1990 Lancet). We also found that non-coagulant heparin could block rosette formation (Carlson et al, 1992, Kulane et al 1992). We subsequently developed sevuparin with heparin chemists in Uppsala. Studies in vitro and in animals continued during the 2000s at KI and Uppsala University. Modus Therapeutics and our other collaborators have now completed a Phase 1 study on healthy adult men and a Phase I / II study in patients with malaria, results from which are in press at PlosOne.

The data shows that sevuparin has the potential to be a first complementary treatment for severe malaria and may reduce mortality by preventing and counteracting the ability of infected red blood cells to block blood vessels and the invasion of normal red blood cells by the parasite.Sevuparin is a new kind of antimicrobial drug, a receptor blocker.  The drug was developed with significant support from SSF.

Reference: Inhibition of merozoite invasion and transient de-sequestration by sevuparin in humans with Plasmodium falciparum malaria; PLoS One, dec (2017).

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