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Scabies mite Aspartic protease (SsAP) – Evaluation of a new drug target for scabies



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4th Aug 2011

Scabies is endemic in Aboriginal populations of northern Australia and is often the cause of underlying bacterial skin infections. Community wide treatment with 5% permethrin cream, a topical scabicide used for ordinary scabies, has not been able to reduce disease burden in the communities in this region. In addition, scabies mites resistant to treatment with all the first line drugs have also been reported.
Aspartic proteases are a family of enzymes that are known mediators of parasitic diseases caused by a number of organisms and are a focus of various drug development programs. The focus of this research project was to evaluate SsAP, an aspartic protease from the scabies mite Sarcoptes scabiei, as a drug target for scabies. The study investigates the activity of SsAP in scabies mite physiological processes and its role as a mediator of parasite invasion and digestion of host tissue.
As possible inhibitors of the enzyme, a number of structurally relevant peptide and synthetic inhibitors were tested in kinetic inhibition assays and the substrate specificity of SsAP was also investigated using a combinatorial library of peptides. This enzyme specificity data will serve as first step towards the development of specific inhibitor for the enzyme and towards the goal of development of novel chemotherapeutic agents for the control of scabies.

Wajahat Mahmood is a PhD candidate in the skin pathogens laboratory at the Menzies School of Health Research. At Menzies, he worked on characterising a new drug target for developing chemotherapeutic agents for scabies. Wajahat has a masters degree in Pharmaceutics and a developing interest in drug discovery and development.