The number of available and effective antimalarial drugs is quickly dwindling. This is mainly because a number of drug resistance-associated mutations in malaria parasite genes, such as crt, mdr1, dhfr/dhps, and others, have led to widespread resistance to all known classes of antimalarial compounds. Unfortunately, malaria parasites have started to exhibit some level of resistance in Southeast Asia even to the most recently introduced class of drugs, artemisinins. While there is much need, the antimalarial drug development pipeline remains woefully thin, with little chemical diversity, and there is currently no alternative to the precious artemisinins. It is difficult to predict where the next generation of antimalarial drugs will come from; however, there are six major approaches: (i) re-optimizing the use of existing antimalarials by either replacement/rotation or combination approach; (ii) repurposing drugs that are currently used to treat other infections or diseases; (iii) chemically modifying existing antimalarial compounds; (iv) exploring natural sources; (v) large-scale screening of diverse chemical libraries; and (vi) through parasite genome-based (“targeted”) discoveries. When any newly discovered effective antimalarial treatment is used by the populus, we must maintain constant vigilance for both parasite-specific and human-related factors that are likely to hamper its success. This article is neither comprehensive nor conclusive. Our purpose is to provide an overview of antimalarial drug resistance, associated parasite genetic factors (1. Introduction; 2. Emergence of artemisinin resistance in P. falciparum), and the antimalarial drug development pipeline (3. Overview of the global pipeline of antimalarial drugs), and highlight some examples of the aforementioned approaches to future antimalarial treatment. These approaches can be categorized into “short term” (4. Feasible options for now) and “long term” (5. Next generation of antimalarial treatment—Approaches and candidates). However, these two categories are interrelated, and the approaches in both should be implemented in parallel with focus on developing a successful, long-lasting antimalarial chemotherapy.
Keywords: malaria, falciparum, artemisinin resistance, natural products, drug discovery, kinases, HDAC, DHODH