A recent research suggests that triclosan, an ingredient found in toothpaste, could be developed to fight drug-resistant strains of malaria.


What is triclosan?

Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal agent found in some consumer products, including toothpaste, soaps, detergents, toys, and surgical cleaning treatments.

Scientists from Cambridge University used an artificially-intelligent (AI)‘robot scientist’ to conduct high-throughput screening.


According to the researchers, triclosan showed the potential to interrupt malaria infections at two critical stages – in the liver and the blood.

The researchers also found that triclosan inhibits an entirely different enzyme of the malaria parasite, called DHFR.

DHFR is the target of the antimalarial pyrimethamine – a drug to which malaria parasites are increasingly developing resistance, particularly in Africa.


Findings from the research showed that triclosan was able to target and act on this enzyme even in pyrimethamine-resistant parasites.

“The discovery by our robot colleague that triclosan is effective against malaria targets offers hope that we may be able to use it to develop a new drug,” said Elizabeth Bilsland, who co-led the work.

“We know it is a safe compound, and its ability to target two points in the malaria parasite’s lifecycle means the parasite will find it difficult to evolve resistance.”

The AI robot scientist used in the study – nicknamed Eve – was designed to automate and speed up the drug discovery process.


The study was published in the journal, Scientific Reports.

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