Edinburgh scientists find vulnerability in malaria parasites

Scientists from the University of Edinburgh and their collaborators have identified a connection between different strains of malaria parasites that may lead to more effective treatment against the deadly disease.

The researchers and their collaborators identified a key protein common to many forms of malaria. Antibodies targeting the protein were effective against multiple severe malaria strains, Deadline News reports.

The common protein allows the malaria parasite to bind to red blood cells, forming dangerous clumps that may block blood vessels. The clumps, also known as rosettes, can cause severe illness, brain damage and comas. The scientists and their colleagues from Gambia, Kenya, Mali and Cameroon found that surface proteins of rosette-forming parasites have similarities that could make them vulnerable as treatment areas to block the disease's progression.

"We knew that clusters, or rosettes, of blood cells were found in many cases of severe or life-threatening malaria, so we looked at rosette-forming parasites and found a common factor that we could target with antibodies," Alexandra Rowe, the leader of the study, said, according to Deadline News. "We hope this discovery will inform new treatments or vaccines to block the formation of rosettes and so prevent many life-threatening cases of malaria."

Between 10 and 20 percent of those who suffer from severe malaria die from it, and approximately one million people a year die from malaria overall.