Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Threatening malaria

"Malaria parasites can detect when they are being threatened and change their behaviour to survive, new research has suggested." Changes in behavior may "explain how malaria" resists "drug treatment".

The study, conducted in Edinburgh, provides insight that "could lead to better control of the disease."

"Caused by a parasite called Plasmodium, malaria is spread through the bites of infected mosquitoes and kills around a million people in the world each year. Some of the parasites multiply in the bloodstream and others change into a specialised transmission form, which enables the disease to spread."

The study indicates that "when exposed to low doses of anti-malarial drugs, this delicate balance of replicating and transmitting is upset." Malaria parasites respond to the drugs by attempting to increase "their chances of survival through a safety-in-numbers strategy: they produce fewer transmission forms and concentrate more on replication."

Malaria illness produces symptoms in a cyclical pattern. This pattern corresponds with the reproduction of the parasite. "If drugs push parasites into producing more replicating stages, which cause the symptoms, then this may lead to more serious illness," says Dr. Sarah Reece, from the University of Edinburgh's school of biological sciences. "This study uncovers a new way that parasites are able to resist the effects of drugs. This is also likely to have important implications for human disease control strategies."


Reece, Sarah. Proceedings of the Royal Society. The Press Association. 19 May 2010.

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