(CTN News) – Inflammation in the body can slow down malaria parasite development in the bloodstream, according to research from the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity and the Kirby Institute – a finding that could offer a potential new way to prevent or treat malaria.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by the Plasmodium parasite, which invades and multiplies within red blood cells.
According to previous research, parasites can rapidly sense and respond to host conditions by closely synchronizing with their internal body clocks.
Despite being well known that the body’s nutrition levels and daily circadian rhythms affect parasite development, little was known about the parasite’s response to inflammation.
mBio reports that when the immune system responds to inflammation, the plasma’s chemical composition changes, preventing Plasmodium parasites from maturing as they circulate in the bloodstream.
Among the senior authors of the paper, Associate Professor Ashraful Haque, Laboratory Head and co-leader of the Doherty Institute’s Bacterial and Parasitic Infections theme, noted that the work highlights a captivating dynamic between host and parasite.
Inflammation in the body prevented the parasites from maturing in the early stages.
Additionally, we observed significant changes in the plasma composition as a result of inflammation – we were actually surprised by the magnitude of these changes,” said Associate Professor Haque.
As we dug deeper, we found substances in the altered plasma that, we believe, may inhibit parasite growth in the body.
This work reveals a new mechanism that slows down the malaria parasite’s development in the bloodstream. “We conducted our research using animal models, so it would be interesting to study whether such inhibitory mechanisms also occur in humans.”
As co-senior author of the paper and leader of the Malaria Analytics Group at Kirby Institute, Dr David Khoury said the parasites exhibited remarkable responses to the changes.
Miles Davenport, Program Head of the Infection Analytics Program at the Kirby Institute and co-senior author of the paper, said the research examined the interaction between systemic host inflammation and malaria parasite maturation.
Although this study is based on animal models, it enhances our understanding of the disease.
“This study provides a foundation for further research into the mechanisms involved in inflammation modulating parasite maturation, and opens up opportunities for future studies to investigate the identified inhibitory factors, genetic changes, and their implications on malaria development,” Professor Davenport explained.
“Our work will, ultimately, contribute to the development of potential new strategies to control, prevent, and reduce the burden of malaria, which affects over 240 million people worldwide.”
A collaboration between the Doherty Institute, the Kirby Institute, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, the Wellcome Sanger Institute (UK) and Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences was conducted for the study.