The devastating malaria, caused by parasites of the genus Plasmodium, afflicts nearly half of the world's population and imposes a heavy socio‐economic burden particularly to the disease‐endemic Sub‐Saharan Africa. Sustained efforts in malaria control have been made from the perspectives of medicine‐ and vaccine‐based prevention and treatment of malaria and malaria transmission blockage for the past 15 years, resulting in a decreased mortality rate by 60% and a decreased malaria incidence rate by 37% globally. Nonetheless, due to the emergence and rapid spread of drug‐resistant parasite strains, novel antimalarial drugs are urgently required to combat this deadly disease. Plasmepsins are deemed potential targets for novel antimalarial drug design. Plasmepsins represent an aspartic proteinase family that can be sub‐categorized into seven groups based on the amino acid sequence identity. This chapter discusses our progress in understanding the biosynthesis, biological functions and enzymatic characteristics of the plasmepsin family. This led to development of various types of plasmepsin‐targeted compounds and the assessment of their binding affinity and selectivity, anti‐parasitic activity and cytotoxicity. The gained experience and current status in developing plasmepsin‐targeted antimalarial drugs are addressed. Finally, a deeper and broader investigation on the functions and characteristics of the plasmepsin family is encouraged.
Part of the book: Natural Remedies in the Fight Against Parasites