In a study in the journal Scientific Reports, scientists from Britain’s Cambridge University who used the AI robot to conduct high-throughput screening said the ingredient, triclosan, showed the potential to interrupt malaria infections at two critical stages – in the liver and the blood. In toothpaste, this helps prevent a build-up of plaque bacteria.
Malaria kills around half a million people every year, the vast majority of them children in the poorest parts of Africa. The disease can be treated with a number of drugs, but resistance to these medicines is increasing, raising the risk that some strains may become untreatable in the future.
Because of this, the search for new medicines was becoming increasingly urgent, said Steve Oliver of Cambridge University’s biochemistry department, who co-led the work with Elizabeth Bilsland. Scientists have known for some time that triclosan can halt malaria parasites’ growth at the blood stage of the infection by inhibiting the action of an enzyme known as enoyl reductase (ENR), which is involved in production of fatty acids.