Malaria Parasite's Mitochondria Might be Target to Combat Mosquito Borne Disease

Malaria Parasite's Mitochondria Might be Target to Combat Mosquito Borne Disease

Malaria is a major health problem in much of the tropics and subtropics. The CDC estimates that there are 300-500 million cases of malaria each year, and more than 1 million people die. It presents a major disease hazard for travelers to warm climates but can also occur (rarely) in temperate climates.Generally the parasite disappears over the winter. It is caused by any of four single-celled parasites of the Plasmodium species, which are carried by mosquitoes infected from biting someone who already has the disease.


Four types of parasites called Plasmodium cause malaria. The parasites are carried by mosquitoes. When a mosquito bites an infected person, parasites in the person's blood are picked up by the mosquito. After the parasites grow in the mosquito for a week or more, the parasites can enter your blood if the mosquito bites you. The parasites then enter your liver, where they grow and multiply.Malaria can also be transmitted congenitally (from a mother to her unborn baby) and by blood transfusions.

Malaria parasites are transmitted by female Anopheles mosquitoes. The parasites multiply within red blood cells, causing symptoms that include symptoms of anemia (light headedness, shortness of breath, tachycardia etc.), as well as other general symptoms such as fever, chills, nausea, flu-like illness, and in severe cases, coma and death.

International travel can be the adventure of a lifetime. Whether you visit the great cities of the world or explore the most remote locales on the planet, the rewards can be unforgettable. But though the rewards of travel abroad can be significant, you may also encounter risks to your health. Getting the right vaccines before you travel, packing the proper medications and planning ahead are all things you can do to ensure a safe and healthy trip.

Doctors treat malaria with anti-malarial drugs, such as chloroquine or quinine, given by mouth, by injection, or intravenously (into the veins). Antimalarial drug resistance is a major public health problem which hinders the control of malaria. The WHO publication, Drug resistance in malaria, describes the state of knowledge about this problem and outlines the current thinking regarding strategies to limit the advent, spread and intensification of drug-resistant malaria.The problem of antimalarial drug resistance is aggravated by the existence of cross resistance among drugs belonging to the same chemical family.

Scientists have achieved a greater understanding of the internal workings of the deadly malaria parasite with an eye toward developing better drugs to fight the disease, a study stated.

Malaria, a mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite, occurs throughout tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world, killing at least a million people annually, most of them young children in sub-Saharan Africa.

A team at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia led by Akhil Vaidya looked at internal structures called mitochondria in Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest of the four types of the parasite that cause malaria in people.

Mitochondria generally act as a cell's power plant -- producing usable energy from oxygen taken in by respiration. The researchers said this parasite's mitochondria do not generate energy but still consume oxygen -- and the question was why.

The researchers, writing in the journal Nature, determined that what the parasite's mitochondria were doing instead of producing energy was providing DNA to enable the parasite to replicate itself.

"Cheaper antimalarial drugs are needed to be developed on a continuous basis for us to keep up with the emergent resistant strains. A better understanding of the mitochondrial physiology would guide efforts to derive new antimalarial drugs," wrote Vaidya, a professor of microbiology and immunology, in an email from India.

The findings also help explain how the antimalarial drug, GlaxoSmithKline Plc's Malarone, works, the researchers said.

Malaria has become resistant to some drugs, and work on a vaccine has been slow. Bed nets to protect against mosquito bites, insecticides and antimalarial drugs are effective ways to combat malaria.

"In general, malaria is a disease of poverty and the populations are caught in the vicious cycle of disease and deprivation," added Vaidya. "The parasite also presents itself as a moving target to our immune system, so the immunity to the parasite is slow to develop and short-lived."

Malaria also is intertwined with the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Recent research showed that people with malaria are more likely to transmit to sex partners the virus that causes AIDS.

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