In the ongoing hunt for more effective weapons against malaria, international researchers said Thursday they are exploring a pathway that has until now been little studied—killing parasites in the #
For the latest research, published in the journal Science, scientists dissected hundreds of thousands of mosquitoes to remove parasites inside them. Each parasite was then isolated in a tube and treated with a different chemical compound—500,000 experiments in all.
Researchers found that certain molecules were able to kill the parasites.
After around six years of work, 631 candidate molecules for a “chemical vaccine” have been identified—a normal vaccine that would allow the body to make antibodies.
Reducing the number of doses is crucial. That’s because many medications available today must be taken over three days, said David Reddy, CEO of Medicines for Malaria Ventures.
But often, after the first dose, a child begins to feel better and the fever lessens. Parents then keep the other two doses in case another of their children falls ill.
“That has two impacts.David Reddy
Firstthe child does not get cured properly and secondly it builds drug resistance.”
The illness grows gradually
Malaria is caused by a miniscule parasite, called Plasmodium.
Female mosquitoes transmit the parasite when they bite people for a meal of blood (males do not bite). Then, the parasite lodges in the liver and multiplies. After a couple of weeks, the population explodes and parasites run rampant in the blood.
At this stage, fever, headache and muscle pain begins, followed by cold sweats and shivering. Without treatment, anemia, breathing difficulties and even death can follow, in the case of Plasmodium falciparum, which is dominant in Africa.
The research published Thursday offers a “promising path, as long as it last several months.”Jean Gaudart // Professor of public health at the University of Aix-Marseille.
Gaudart said new approaches are necessary because resistance is on the rise in Asia against the most effective treatment using artemisinin, derived from a Chinese plant.
Now it’s up to researchers to confirm which of the 631 molecules identified have a real shot at wiping out this global scourge.
The WHO (World Health Organization) said last month that global efforts to fight malaria have hit a plateau, with two million more cases of the killer disease in 2017—219 million—than the previous year.
Malaria killed 435,000 people last year, the majority of them children under five in Africa.
The first malaria vaccine for children—called RTS,S—will be distributed in the African countries in 2019, though it only reduces the risk of malaria by 40% after four doses.
Despite billions of dollars spent, the world still has not found a real-effective solution to malaria.