New study finds vivax malaria an emerging threat
David Serre of the Genomic Medicine Institute at Lerner and assistant professor at Case Western Reserve and Professor Peter A. Zimmerman of Case Western Reserve recently discovered novel genetic mutations of the Plasmodium vivax genome, which are making the parasite stronger and potentially more dangerous.
"We've found a duplication of a gene known to enable the parasite to infect red blood cells and two possible additional components to a more complex red cell invasion mechanism," Zimmerman said
Previously, researchers thought only persons who express a Duffy binding protein on their red blood cells were susceptible to a vivax malaria infection. The new study shows that the novel genetic mutations make anyone susceptible to infection. The study found Duffy negative patients positive for vivax malaria by analyzing data of vivax malaria cases over the past decade.
Zimmerman and Serre presented their data at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene annual conference. The team is expected to continue its research through the grant from the NIAID, a subsidiary of the National Institutes of Health, in the beginning of 2014.
P. vivax is less lethal than the strain of malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum. P. vivax does, however, affect the liver and immune system, overall contributing to death. The Malaria Atlas Project estimates 2.5 billion people around the world are at risk of P. vivax malaria.