Link between malaria, salmonella found

British researchers recently explained why malaria patients are often at risk of developing fatal bacterial infections, particularly salmonella.

It was previously thought that because malaria weakens and compromises the entire immune system, it leaves the body open to concurrent bacterial infections, according to

Scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, however, recently discovered that the vulnerability to bacterial infections is an effect of the body’s attempts to protect itself from malaria-related damage, according to

The researchers believe the body fights one infection, leaving it exposed to another.

The new study, using mice, explored the connection between malaria and non-typhoid salmonella, an infection particularly dangerous to children. Children with malaria can develop anemia, which leaves them at a higher risk for developing a concurrent bacterial blood infection. In 70 percent of such cases, NTS is the cause.

“It is a widespread belief that malaria is an immunosuppressive disease; that once the disease is contracted, the patient will be susceptible to several other infections because of a compromised immune system,” professor Eleanor Riley, one of the study’s lead authors, said, reports. “However, this study shows that increased susceptibility to salmonella infections is due to a very specific immunological effect which does not affect the immune system as a whole.”

The study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, demonstrated that when the body defends itself from the dangers of heme oxygenase, an enzyme byproduct of malarial infection, its production of neutrophils becomes compromised. Neutrophils are white blood cells critical in fighting bacterial infections like NTS.

The authors hope their research can lead to new ways of treating NTS, and possibly malaria. They have already identified Tin Protoporphyrin (SnPP) as a candidate for preventing NTS infections. SnPP targets heme oxygenase, and should leave the immune system capable of preventing susceptibility to certain kinds of bacterial infections in malaria sufferers.

The scientists said that careful research will be needed before any kind of SnPP treatment could be used in humans. They fear blocking heme oxygenase in the body could potentially cause tissue damage.