Molecular, biochemical and genetic characterization of ornithine decarboxylase, S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase and spermidine synthase establishes that these polyamine-biosynthetic enzymes are essential for growth and survival of the agents that cause African sleeping sickness, Chagas' disease, leishmaniasis and malaria. These enzymes exhibit features that differ significantly between the parasites and the human host. Therefore it is conceivable that exploitation of such differences can lead to the design of new inhibitors that will selectively kill the parasites while exerting minimal, or at least tolerable, effects on the parasite-infected patient.

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