Anti-inflammatory drugs could increase severe malaria survival rate

A new class of anti-inflammatory agents could improve survival in severe malaria cases by preventing the immune system from causing tissue and brain damage.

Researchers from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute found that innate defense regulator peptides could increase survival from severe clinical malaria when combined with antimalarial drugs. The team of Ariel Achtman, Sandra Pilat-Carotta and Louis Schofield published the study on Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine, Science Codex reports.

"The most severe forms of malaria, such as cerebral malaria which causes brain damage, are actually the result of the immune system trying to fight infection and causing collateral damage," Achtman said, according to Science Codex.

The study found that the new class of drugs prevented brain inflammation in mice with malaria. Schofield said that as many as 25 percent of severe malaria cases are fatal even when the patients have access to the best health care.

"Antimalarial drugs are very effective, but only if they are given before serious clinical symptoms develop," Schofield said, according to Science Codex. "On their own, antimalarial drugs fail in approximately one out of every four cases of severe clinical malaria, because by the time the patient arrives at a hospital they are already very sick and inflammation caused by the immune response to the parasite is causing major organ damage."

IDR peptides were developed by Robert Hancock and his colleagues at the University of British Columbia in Canada. They are relatively cheap to produce and could serve as an effective host-directed therapy in developing countries.