Study offers insight into malaria

08 April 2011 10:54

Malaria parasites develop strategies to fight off rival infections, researchers at the University of Edinburgh found

Malaria parasites develop strategies to fight off rival infections, researchers at the University of Edinburgh found

New research has shed light on why malaria is such a dangerous disease.

Scientists investigating the ability of malaria parasites to survive in the human body found that they develop sophisticated strategies to fight off rival infections.

Malaria, which is spread by mosquito bites, kills around one million people every year and accounts for one in five of all child deaths in Africa.

When travelling to a country where malaria is present, it is important to take the correct medication to ward off the disease. Taking out medical travel insurance can also offer peace of mind and help avoid potentially expensive healthcare costs when visiting countries where malaria and other types of illness are common.

A study by a team at the University of Edinburgh found that when malaria parasites enter the bloodstream, they alter their plan of attack if they face competition from other competing strains of the infection.

They focus on producing cells that replicate quickly to cause infection, rather than cells capable of being taken up by a feeding mosquito and spreading the disease.

Since malaria infections usually consist of multiple, competing strains of the parasite, this attack strategy is the best way to beat the competition, the scientists said.

The parasites pay a high price however, as it means they have fewer resources left to spread the disease.

The research, published in the American Naturalist, was funded by the Wellcome Trust, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Natural Environment Research Council.

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