The spread of Plasmodium falciparum parasites resistant to most first-line antimalarials creates an imperative to enrich the drug discovery pipeline, preferably with curative compounds that can also act prophylactically. We report a phenotypic quantitative high-throughput screen (qHTS), based on concentration-response curves, which was designed to identify compounds active against Plasmodium liver and asexual blood stage parasites. Our qHTS screened over 450,000 compounds, tested across a range of 5 to 11 concentrations, for activity against Plasmodium falciparum asexual blood stages.
Vivax malaria is associated with significant morbidity and economic loss, and constitutes the bulk of malaria cases in large parts of Asia and South America as well as recent case reports in Africa. The widespread prevalence of vivax is a challenge to global malaria elimination programmes. Vivax malaria control is particularly challenged by existence of dormant liver stage forms that are difficult to treat and are responsible for multiple relapses, growing drug resistance to the asexual blood stages and host-genetic factors that preclude use of specific drugs like primaquine capable of targeting Plasmodium vivax liver stages. Despite an obligatory liver-stage in the Plasmodium life cycle, both the difficulty in obtaining P. vivax sporozoites and the limited availability of robust host cell models permissive to P. vivax infection are responsible for the limited knowledge of hypnozoite formation biology and relapse mechanisms, as well as the limited capability to do drug screening. Although India accounts for about half of vivax malaria cases world-wide, very little is known about the vivax liver stage forms in the context of Indian clinical isolates.
Advanced cell culture methods for modeling organ-level structure have been demonstrated to replicate in vivo conditions more accurately than traditional in vitro cell culture. Given that the liver is particularly important to human health, several advanced culture methods have been developed to experiment with liver disease states, including infection with Plasmodium parasites, the causative agent of malaria. These models have demonstrated that intrahepatic parasites require functionally stable hepatocytes to thrive and robust characterization of the parasite populations' response to investigational therapies is dependent on high-content and high-resolution imaging (HC/RI). We previously reported abiotic confinement extends the functional longevity of primary hepatocytes in a microfluidic platform and set out to instill confinement in a microtiter plate platform while maintaining optical accessibility for HC/RI; with an end-goal of producing an improved P. vivax liver stage culture model. We developed a novel fabrication process in which a PDMS soft mold embosses hepatocyte-confining microfeatures into polystyrene, resulting in microfeature-based hepatocyte confinement (μHEP) slides and plates.
Despite an unprecedented 2 decades of success, the combat against malaria — the mosquito-transmitted disease caused by Plasmodium parasites — is no longer progressing. Efforts toward eradication are threatened by the lack of an effective vaccine and a rise in antiparasite drug resistance. Alternative approaches are urgently needed. Repurposing of available, approved drugs with distinct modes of action are being considered as viable and immediate adjuncts to standard antimicrobial treatment.