Getting Closer to Curing Malaria
16 June 1997
researcher at The Catholic University of America is part of a team that has discovered how the parasite that causes the most virulent form of malaria obtains nourishment in the human body, showing how some drugs can use this same "feeding system" system to cure the disease.
Pradip Rathod, an associate professor in the university's biology department collaborated with Kasturi Haldar's group from Stanford University for two years on this project. Their work is featured in the May 15 issue of Science.
"Millions of lives are at stake in the cat-and-mouse game between drug-resistant parasites and malaria scientists," said Rathod. "Recently, it has been a blow-out in favor of the parasite. Discoveries like this one gives us a fighting chance."
The most fatal form of malaria is caused by the parasite Plasmodium falciparum, carried by the female mosquitoes of the Annapholous type. When the parasite takes up residence in red blood cells, it is protected from the human immune system, but it still must import nutrients to stay alive and grow.
"Now we have shown that the parasite makes a complex network of tubules to bring in certain nutrients," Rathod said. "These channels and gateways are exploited by some antimalarial drugs to get to the parasite."
- This parasite has been found in all tropical countries, placing more than 2 billion people at risk.
- Malaria affects 200 million to 300 million people each year and kills over 1 million children.
- Some cases have been seen in the United States, as far north as Michigan.
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