The key to malaria’s rampant growth has been explained by scientists.
They say it is down to protein molecules called cyclins which cause cells to divide rapidly in the malaria parasite.
The study, led by a team from the University of Nottingham, could lead to new treatments for malaria, the researchers said.
Malaria is responsible for nearly half a million deaths a year.
A cyclin is one of the most important protein molecules needed for cell division.
They have been well studied in humans, yeasts and plants – but until now, little has been known about cyclins in the malaria parasite and how they affect cell development.
This research, published in the journal PLoS Pathogens, has been able to classify the number and type of cyclins present in malaria parasites.
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Drugs have been used to treat and prevent malaria for centuries. Bark from the cinchona tree, which contained an array of alkaloids with antimalarial properties, appeared in Western therapeutics in the 17th century. One of the alkaloids, quinine, was isolated in 1820 and became the drug of choice for treating malaria until World War II, when supplies of the drug for much of the world were cut off by the Japanese occupation of cinchona-growing regions in Southeast Asia. Efforts to create alternatives to quinine led to the search for synthetic antimalarial drugs. Chloroquine, first developed in the 1930s, became the most widely used synthetic antimalarial during the 1960s and 1970s.
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Parasites infected with malaria can hide inside the bone marrow and evade the body’s defences, research confirms.
The discovery could lead to new drugs or vaccines to block transmission.
The research, published in Science Translational Medicine, fills a “key knowledge gap” in the biology of the disease, say scientists at Harvard.
Carried by mosquitoes, the parasite causes the most severe form of malaria, which leads to more than 500,000 deaths every year globally.
Warmer temperatures are causing malaria to spread to higher altitudes, a study suggests.
Researchers have found that people living in the highlands of Africa and South America are at an increased risk of catching the mosquito-borne disease during hotter years.
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