New findings in the fight against malaria
The infectious disease malaria affects around 240 million people worldwide every year. Inflammation in the body of the person bitten slows the development of malaria parasites in the bloodstream. Researchers believe they have found an approach for a new type of therapy and also prevention.
Specifically, scientists at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity and the Kirby Institute have been looking at the new approach to treating malaria and appear to have taken an important step forward in combating the disease.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease and is caused by Plasmodium parasites that invade and multiply in red blood cells. Previous studies have shown that the parasites quickly sense and respond to conditions in the host cell by synchronising with their internal clock. While it is known that the body's nutrient levels and daily circadian rhythms influence parasite development, little was previously known about the effects of inflammation on parasites.
"First, we discovered that inflammation in the body prevents the early stages of the parasites from maturing. We also found that inflammation triggers significant changes in the composition of blood plasma. And when we dug deeper, we found substances in the altered plasma that we believe inhibit the growth of parasites in the body," said Ashraful Haque from the University of Melbourne and co-head of the Bacterial and Parasitic Infections Unit at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity.
Parasites active after four hours
"Using genome sequencing technology, we realised that the parasites in this altered plasma adjusted their genetic protein activity after just four hours, resulting in slower maturation of red blood cells," says David Khoury of the Kirby Institute. "The findings are based on experiments in animal models. They are the basis for further research into the specific mechanisms that inhibit the maturation of the parasites," says Miles Davenport, also of the Kirby Institute. If these could be identified more precisely, malaria could be better combated.
According to research, tropical diseases increased during the pandemic despite travel restrictions. Infections with the malaria pathogen have also become more frequent. The symptoms of malaria are similar to those of covid-19: fever, aching limbs and headache, and rarely diarrhoea and vomiting.
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