Indian researchers discover molecule to prevent Malaria

Indian researchers discover molecule to prevent Malaria

A research team from New Delhi claims the discovery that a peptide molecule can prevent the attack of Malaria parasites on Red Blood Cells (RBCs). It can be an effective vaccine to prevent the spread of the deadly decease. The molecule is effective for the parasite Plasmodium falciparum which is responsible for most of the Malaria cases in the world.

The team, led by Dr Anand Ranganathan from the Special Centre for Molecular Medicine at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi and Dr Pawan Malhotra from the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), New Delhi, studied the life cycle of the parasite in the body and generated a mechanism to prevent its interaction with RBCs. They used cyclosporine A, a medication to "reduce the strength of the body's immune system" which binds to Cyclophilin B- an RBC surface protein acts as the receptor for the parasite- and provide protection up to 80%.

The parasite Plasmodium falciparum evolves in the host's body after the single cell parasite transferred from an infected female Anopheles mosquito. It will multiply into thousands of new Plasmodium cells inside the liver cells and red blood cells (RBCs). It grows inside RBC by digesting haemoglobin. The rupture of RBCs leads to the symptoms of Malaria.

Among hundreds of Plasmodium species, only 5 causes Malaria. Plasmodium falciparum is one among them. Another major species is Plasmodium vivax. A report published in National Institute of Malaria Research (NIMR) titled 'Estimation of True Malaria Burden in India' says: "Although most of the Indo-Gangetic plains and northern hilly states, northwestern India and southern Tamil Nadu state have less than 10% P. falciparum and the rest are P. vivax infections; in the forested areas inhabited by ethnic tribes, the situation is reversed and P. falciparum proportion is 30–90% and in the remaining areas it is between 10 and 30%."

But falciparum is the one which causes worst reactions. It includes blocking the blood flow which eventually leads to organ failure. Kidney, liver and spleen are the most affected. Cerebral Malaria, affecting the brain results in an unstable mental situation or even coma.

The treatments for Malaria are currently available to prevent the entry of parasites into the liver and killing it in the next stages and to prevent its spread depending on the severity.

The most vulnerable groups to Malaria are children under the age of 5, pregnant women, HIV-AIDS patients.

Latin American countries, sub Saharan African countries, South and South East Asian countries are in the 'Malaria belt'. According to various reports, India contributes 50-70% of malaria cases in the South-East Asia Region.

India has a roadmap to eliminate Malaria by 2027. In 2020, they expect to cease the deaths in 15 states.

"Overall, malaria cases have consistently declined from 2 million in 2001 to 0.88 million in 2013, although an increase to 1.13 million cases occurred in 2014 due to focal outbreaks," reads the National Framework for Malaria Elimination in India. In 1953, 75 million people were affected by Malaria.

Adding to the elimination process, the current research brings hopes into the preventive steps.

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