Researchers at Jerusalem's Hebrew University have successfully identified a unique biological deception used by the parasite that causes malaria and believe they can use this newfound knowledge to defeat the disease.
Over a million people around the world die from malaria each year.
Malaria is caused by the Plasmodium parasite, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, making it very difficult to prevent infection. Once inside the body, the parasite is able to alter red blood cells and thereby bypass the patient's immune system. It is this act of biological deception that has given Hebrew University researchers their idea for a cure.
The Plasmodium parasite reproduces inside the patient's red blood cells. The parasite's proteins rise to the surface of the blood cell and cause it to adhere to the walls of blood vessels, causing disturbances in the human body.
The body's immune system sends antibodies to combat the disruptive proteins, but the Plasmodium parasite is able to use one type of protein to keep the antibodies busy while producing a different protein to continue the infection.
The Israeli researchers have unlocked the unique DNA sequence that allows the Plasmodium parasite to do this.
The Israelis are proposing a new medical method that would interfere with this DNA sequence, and therefore strip the parasite of its ability to fool the immune system, which could then effectively and fully defeat the invader.
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