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New Drug for Amoebiasis

  • 15 Jun 2020
  • 4 min read

Why in News

Recently, researchers from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) have developed new drug molecules against the protozoa ‘Entamoeba histolytica’ that causes amoebiasis.

Key Points

  • The Protozoa and High Oxygen Level:
    • The protozoa is anaerobic or microaerophilic in nature such that it cannot survive high concentrations of oxygen.
      • Anaerobic organisms are those who exist in the absence of free oxygen.
      • A microaerophilic atmosphere is ideal for a microorganism that can grow under reduced oxygen and increased carbon dioxide levels.
    • However, during infection, it faces a high surge of oxygen inside the human body. The organism synthesizes large amounts of cysteine to counter oxidative stress.
  • Synthesis of Cysteine:
    • This pathogen deploys cysteine as one of the essential molecules in its defence mechanism against high oxygen levels. It expresses two crucial enzymes for synthesizing cysteine.
      • Cysteines are enzymes that degrade proteins in the body.
      • Cysteine biosynthesis is crucial for the survival of E. histolytica and for similar protozoan parasites.
  • JNU Research:
    • Researchers have characterized and determined the molecular structures of both the crucial enzymes.
    • They have also successfully screened for potent inhibitors for one of the enzymes, O-acetyl L-serine sulfhydrylase (OASS).
    • Some of these inhibitors can check the growth of this organism with high efficacy by targeting their pathways.
    • The identified molecules can lead to the development of drug molecules.


  • Protozoans are the single-celled eukaryotes, either free-living or parasitic, which feed on organic matter such as other microorganisms or organic tissues and debris.
    • Eukaryotes are organisms whose cells have a nucleus enclosed within membranes, unlike prokaryotes, which have no membrane-bound organelles.
    • A parasite is an organism that lives on or in a host and gets its food from or at the expense of its host. E.g. plasmodium parasite which causes malaria.
  • Habitat: Mostly they are aerobic (with oxygen) but some are anaerobic (without oxygen) and present in the rumen or human intestine.
  • Size and Shape: The size and shape of Protozoa vary greatly, from microbial (1µm) to large enough and can be seen by the naked eye.
  • Nutrition: Protozoans are heterotrophs and have holozoic nutrition.
    • Holozoic nutrition can be defined as a method of nutrition which involves the ingestion of some complex organic substances (such as parts of a plant or animal) that may be in the solid or the liquid form.

Entamoeba histolytica

  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Entamoeba histolytica is the third-leading cause of morbidity and mortality due to parasitic disease in humans.
    • Predominantly infecting humans and other primates, E. histolytica is estimated to infect about 35-50 million people worldwide.
    • A parasitic disease is an infectious disease caused or transmitted by a parasite. E.g. Malaria.
  • It causes amoebiasis or amoebic dysentery, which is highly prevalent in developing countries.


  • It is a disease caused by the parasite Entamoeba histolytica.
  • Amoebiasis infection is most common in tropical areas with untreated water. E.g. India.
  • It spreads through drinking or eating uncooked food, such as fruit, that may have been washed in contaminated local water.
  • If symptoms occur, they may be mild and include cramping and diarrhoea.
  • It can be treated through antibiotics.

Source: PIB

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