Despite recent successful control efforts, malaria remains a leading global health burden. Alarmingly, resistance to current antimalarials is increasing and the development of new drug families is needed to maintain malaria control. Current antimalarials target the intraerythrocytic developmental stage of the Plasmodium falciparum life cycle. However, the invasive extracellular parasite form, the merozoite, is also an attractive target for drug development. We have previously demonstrated that heparin-like molecules, including those with low molecular weights and low anticoagulant activities, are potent and specific inhibitors of merozoite invasion and blood-stage replication. Here we tested a large panel of heparin-like molecules and sulfated polysaccharides together with various modified chemical forms for their inhibitory activity against P. falciparum merozoite invasion. We identified chemical modifications that improve inhibitory activity and identified several additional sulfated polysaccharides with strong inhibitory activity. These studies have important implications for the further development of heparin-like molecules as antimalarial drugs and for understanding merozoite invasion.
- Plasmodium falciparum