TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2016

Malaria uses inflammatory response to evade immune system

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Australian scientists recently discovered that malaria parasites trigger an inflammatory response that prevents the immune system from protecting itself from malaria and its spread throughout the body.

This finding could help scientists improve or develop treatments and prevention methods. The goal is to enhance important immune system cells that are necessary for the immune system to have long-term protection against the illness.

"With many infections, a single exposure to the pathogen is enough to induce production of antibodies that will protect you for the rest of your life," Dr. Diana Hansen, from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, said. "However with malaria it can take up to 20 years for someone to build up sufficient immunity to be protected. During that time people exposed to malaria are susceptible to reinfection and become sick many times, as well as spreading the disease."

The human body finds it challenging to have long-term immune responses against malaria parasites. This is why the virus has been difficult for researchers to handle.

"This was complicated by the fact that we didn't know whether it was the malaria parasite itself or the inflammatory reaction to malaria that was actually inhibiting the ability to develop protective immunity,” Hansen said. “We have now shown that it was a double-edged sword: the strong inflammatory reaction that accompanies and in fact drives severe clinical malaria is also responsible for silencing the key immune cells needed for long-term protection against the parasite."

Organizations in this story

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute 1G Royal Parade, Parkville, Victoria, Australia 3052 ,

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