Malaria — what new research reveals
Warnings about 'weaker' malaria, early results of synthetic vaccine trial, threats of re-emergence and drug resistance ...
By Sacha Boucherie Posted on 25 April 2013
Last year, Elsevier's Newsroom began sending out the Elsevier Monthly Research Selection (EMRS), an e-newsletter for science journalists featuring easy-to-read summaries of the research published in Elsevier's journals. Distributed to about 1,500 journalists around the world, it highlights topical, intriguing, controversial, funny or otherwise noteworthy research that has just appeared online on ScienceDirect and is likely to appeal to the general public.
For World Malaria Day, the Newsroom created a special edition of the EMRS featuring recent studies about malaria.
We also invite you to explore Malaria Nexus, Elsevier's online malaria resource center. The website provides free access to some of the latest research on malaria published in Elsevier's journals. Articles are regularly uploaded and made freely available for a period of three months. News items and podcast interviews with key leaders in the field are also posted and available free to users. Some articles in this EMRS are also available through Malaria Nexus.
Access for science journalists
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First outbreak of malaria in Greece in 60 years
International Journal of Infectious Diseases | http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijid.2012.09.009
Malaria is considered to have been eradicated in Greece with only sporadic cases amongst travelers being reported. However, according to this research paper published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, people migrating to Greece from Asia, where malaria is endemic, may have caused the disease to re-emerge. The study presents the first large outbreak of malaria cases caused by bites from local mosquitoes in Greece since the 1950s. The researchers say enhanced entomological surveillance and early detection of malaria infection are crucial to prevent the re-emergence of malaria, not only in Greece, but in the rest of Europe as well. [divider]
Cryopreserved malaria vaccines no more expensive than standard ones
The development of new vaccinations often raises the question of cost, particularly if they involve extra logistics to existing solutions. Current clinical trials are looking at malaria vaccines which are made from the parasite, P. falciparum then cryogenically frozen in liquid nitrogen and stored at -140°C. This study, published in Vaccine, predicts little difference in five-year distribution costs between a cryopreserved malaria vaccine and a standard one. The research accounted for costs of storage, transportation, labor, energy usage and facilities. Estimated costs per fully immunized child were $6.11 for a cryopreserved vaccination, and $6.04 for a standard vaccination. [divider]
Watch out for 'weaker' malaria: travellers should also be protected against P. vivax
Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease | http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tmaid.2013.01.002 Travel medicine advisors often consider malaria infection caused by P. vivax to be less harmful than infection with the more dangerous malaria parasite P. falciparum. However, recent evidence from endemic zones shows that not only is P. vivax notoriously difficult to prevent, there is also an appreciable risk of severe or fatal illness associated with infection. Prevention of P. vivax is possible using primaquine, but this older medication is not registered for the indication of P. vivax prophylaxis. The paper published in Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease calls for travel medicine experts to reconsider the current approach to malaria prevention and to put primaquine on the chemoprophylaxis palette. [divider]
The influence of the DNA architecture of the malaria parasite on its virulence
Molecular and Biochemical Parasitology | http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.molbiopara.2013.01.003
This year, World Malaria Day coincides with the 60th anniversary of the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA. In this review, published in Molecular and Biochemical Parasitology, the authors describe the current understanding of chromosome ends and their impact on the biology and virulence of P. falciparum, the most common malaria parasite. The authors describe the DNA structure and composition of telomeric regions in the parasite and how they are responsible for the silencing of virulence genes located in their proximity. In addition, telomeres are involved in anchoring chromosome ends to the periphery of the cell nucleus and the authors present the important role they play in regulating the nuclear architecture. Increasing our knowledge of the telomere biology of P. falciparum may lead to new strategies for eradicating malaria. [divider]
Synthetic vaccine could provide hope in the fight against malaria
Branches of a protein made by the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum have been shown to prepare the immune system for infection in animals and humans. It works by triggering the immune system to produce antibodies that prevent the parasite from moving at the site of infection into the skin, and in the bloodstream. In this study, published in Vaccine, scientists have created a fully synthetic vaccine for malaria, which mimics the functioning of this protein. The vaccine, made by layering proteins onto chalk, triggered a strong immune response in mice, suggesting it could be an effective vaccination against malaria in humans. [divider]
All strains of malaria must be targeted to prevent drug resistance
International Journal for Parasitology: Drugs and Drug Resistance | http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpddr.2013.01.001
The dominant human malaria parasite found in Africa is Plasmodium falciparum, however, other types of malaria-causing parasites are becoming more of a danger to humans too. This study, published in the International Journal for Parasitology: Drugs and Drug Resistance, looked at a cohort of 155 Ghanaian school children who were asymptomatic but tested positive for malaria through microscopy and DNA testing. The children were treated with dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine and followed for 3 weeks. After 21 days, 15 percent of the children who had been treated still measured as positive carriers through DNA testing. These data show that low-density parasitic infections may be an unrecognised obstacle to malaria elimination. [divider]
Drug resistance growing in India
Acta Tropica | http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actatropica.2013.01.010
Drug resistance is a growing problem, reducing the effectiveness of disease treatment, including malaria. This research published in Acta Tropica, reveals high prevalence of malaria parasites in Odisha, India that are resistant to a common treatment: sulfadoxine pyrimethamine (SP). SP is often used in combination with two other drugs – artemisinin and chloroquine. A high proportion of the malaria parasites in India are already resistant to chloroquine, and emerging resistance to SP could mean combination therapy is no longer effective. The researchers say strategic minimization of uneven drug pressure is needed to prevent further development of drug resistance and suggest looking for an alternative to SP. [divider]
Visits to family and friends pose bigger health risks to children than holiday tourism
Pediatric Clinics of North America | http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pcl.2012.12.004
In 2012, the number of international arrivals for tourism reached over a billion, an increase of 4 percent from the previous year and some countries even seeing an increase of over 6 percent. An increasing number of children are travelling to developing countries, partly due to an increased interest to visit exotic destinations but also due to the worldwide increase in migration, causing an increase in travel to visit friends and relatives. This article published in Pediatric Clinics of North America, looked at the most common infectious conditions observed among young travelers, including: malaria, typhoid fever, traveler's diarrhea and fevers which are most commonly suffered by those visiting friends and family, who are often most unprepared. The authors further outline recommendations for management of the conditions among young travelers. [divider]
Hidden dangers of plant-based anti-malaria drugs
Food and Chemical Toxicology | http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fct.2013.01.049
Although anti-malaria drugs are vital in the fight against the disease, contamination is a prevalent health issue which needs to be addressed to ensure that medicines are not doing more harm than good. This study, published in Food and Chemical Toxicology, analyzed levels of toxic elements such as arsenic in ready-to-use, plant-based, anti-malaria medicine sold in both certified and uncertified pharmacies and herbal stores in Ghana. Results showed that levels of arsenic were above the World Health Organization's permissible levels, making these drugs a health hazard and not safe for human consumption. [divider]
New approaches for identifying malaria parasite invasion
International Journal for Parasitology | http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpara.2012.11.002
The merozoite form of the malaria parasite is released following the bursting of parasite-infected red blood cells (RBCs). The invasion of additional RBCs by the merozoites released is essential for the replication of the parasite and the development of the disease. Since the merozoite form is extracellular and the invasion of RBCs is essential and unique to the parasite, this form has long been considered as an attractive target for vaccine and drug development. This study, published in the International Journal for Parasitology, discusses recent advances in methods to study merozoite invasion and considers potential avenues for future research. [note color="#f1f9fc" position="center" width=800 margin=10]
Elsevier Connect Contributor
The Elsevier Research Selection for Journalists is produced and distributed by the Elsevier Newsroom, which serves as an intermediary between the scientific community and general public. Press Officer Sacha Boucherie works closely with Elsevier's journal publishers, editors and authors at one end and with science journalists and reporters at the other end with the aim of spotlighting and promoting interesting, topical research articles. She is based in Elsevier's Amsterdam headquarters and holds a master's degree in social psychology at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.