According to the Robert Koch Institute, malaria, also known as malaria or fever, causes up to 2.7 million deaths each year, around half of which are children under the age of five. The pathogens of the disease are unicellular organisms, the plasmodia.
The Anopheles mosquito
They are transmitted from the Anopheles mosquito by a bite on humans. So far, only four species of pathogens have been considered dangerous to humans, however, new research indicates that another strain, which was previously considered to be primarily dangerous for monkeys, even in greater numbers than previously thought to be pathogenic to humans. The “Plasmodium falciparum” is the clinically most significant and most threatening pathogen, it triggers “malaria tropica”. 90 percent of all malaria illnesses go back to him. The Anopheles mosquito transfers the plasmodium to humans when it is bitten. The danger of becoming infected in a malaria area is greater, the more mosquitoes there carry the plasmodia and the more frequently one is stung by these mosquitoes. However, human-to-human transmission is not possible. In the tropics, the risk of disease is relatively high, so far malaria infections have been detected in about 100 different states. Thus, about 40 percent of the world’s population live in malaria areas. The disease has been affecting mankind for more than 3,000 years; On mummies found in Egypt, researchers have found that malaria was the cause of death.
Malaria-infected mosquitoes primed for dissecting at the Sanaria, Inc. manufacturing facility in Rockville, Maryland, during vaccine processing
In the continuing pursuit of more powerful malaria arms, foreign researchers said Thursday they are investigating a mechanism that has so far been little studied—killing parasites in the liver before the disease arises.
“It’s really difficult to operate on the liver level,” said Elizabeth Winzeler, professor of pharmacology and drug development at the San Diego School of Medicine at the University of California.
“We have traditionally looked for medicines that will cure malaria,” she told AFP.
For the most recent study conducted in Science, scientists have dissected hundreds of thousands of mosquitoes to extract parasites inside them.
Each parasite was then isolated in a tube and treated with another chemical compound—500,000 experiments in all.
Researchers also discovered that certain compounds have been able to destroy the parasites.
After around six years of work, 631 candidate molecules have been identified for the “chemical vaccine”—a natural vaccine that will cause the body to make antibodies.
“If you could find a drug that you give on one day at one time that will kill all the malaria parasites in the person, both in the liver and in the bloodstream, and last for three to six months. Yeah, that’d be super but there is no drug like that right now,” said Larry Slutsker, the leader of PATH’s Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) programs.
Reducing the number of doses is important.
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. First the child does not get healed properly and secondly, it builds drug resistance,” Reddy said.
What causes malaria?
Malaria is caused by a tiny parasite called Plasmodium.
Female mosquitoes spread the disease as they bite humans for a meal of blood (males do not bite).
Then the parasite lodges and multiplies in the liver. In a few hours, the population crashes and the parasites run wild in the blood.
At this point, fever, headache and muscle pain starts, accompanied by cold sweating and shivering. In the case of Plasmodium falciparum, which is dominant in Africa, anemia, difficulty breathing and even death may follow without treatment.
The study released on Thursday provides a “promising direction as long as it lasts for many months,” said Jean Gaudart, professor of public health at the University of Aix-Marseille.
Gaudart said that new methods are needed because resistance to the most successful medication with artemisinin, obtained from a Chinese herb, is on the rise in Asia.
“We just need some new substances,” he added.
Now it’s up to the researchers to prove which of the 631 molecules found has a real shot at wiping out this global scourge.
The World Health Organization said last month that global efforts to combat malaria had reached the plateau, with two million more cases of killer disease in 2017—219 million—than in the previous year.
Malaria infected 435,000 people last year, most of them children under five in Africa.
The first malaria vaccine for children—called RTS,S—will be administered in these African countries in 2019, but it will only decrease the incidence of malaria by 40% after four doses.
Despite billions of dollars invested, the world has not yet found a true and meaningful cure to malaria.