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Drug Names(s): SSR97193

Description: Ferroquine is an organometallic compound designed to overcome the chloroquine resistance problem. It is thought that the mechanism of action of ferroquine is likely to be similar to that of chloroquine and probably involves hematin as the drug target and inhibition of hemozoin formation. It has been shown to be more potent than chloroquine in the inhibition of growth of P. falciparum in vitro and on P. berghei in vivo.

Inside the red blood cells, the malarial parasite must degrade the hemoglobin for the acquisition of essential amino acids, which the parasite requires to construct its own protein and for energy metabolism. This is essential for parasitic growth and division inside the red blood cell. It is carried out in the digestive vacuole of the parasite cell.

During this process, the parasite produces the toxic and soluble molecule heme. The heme moiety consists of a porphyrin ring called Fe(II)-protoporphyrin IX (FP). To avoid destruction by this molecule, the parasite polymerizes heme to form hemozoin, a non-toxic molecule. Hemozoin collects in the digestive vacuole as insoluble crystals.

Chloroquine enters the red blood cell, inhabiting parasite cell, and digestive vacuole by simple diffusion. Chloroquine then becomes protonated (to CQ2+) as the digestive vacuole is known to be acidic (pH 4.7), chloroquine then cannot leave by diffusion. Chloroquine caps hemozoin molecules to prevent further polymerization of heme, thus leading to heme build up. Chloroquine binds to heme (or FP) to form what is known as the FP-Chloroquine complex, this complex is highly toxic to the cell and disrupts membrane function. Action of the toxic FP-Chloroquine and FP results in cell lysis and ultimately parasite cell autodigestion. In essence, the parasite cell drowns in its own metabolic products.

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