The National Institutes of Health published study results on Thursday that showed children who live where malaria is common can develop an immune response by using malaria parasites.
People who live in malaria-endemic regions are able to control the malaria parasites in their bloodstream through a natural immune response.
Researchers reviewed blood sample from children in Mali who are bitten by mosquitoes more than 100 times per year. Samples were collected before malaria season, seven days after they were treated for their first malaria fever of the season and after malaria season ended.
During the study, researchers found that immune cells collected after the first fever of the malaria season responded to malaria parasites by controlling inflammation and destroying the parasite. During the off season, immune cells lost their ability to produce the molecules to control the illness.
The study showed the immune response depended on continuous exposure to the parasite, and may be part of an evolution to protect children from repeated infections and life-threatening inflammation before they acquire antibodies to fight the disease.
Approximately 200 million cases of malaria are reported each year, leading to 627,000 deaths occurring mostly in children less than 5 years of age.