Researchers from the University of Tennessee and the University of Louisville recently co-authored a study that shows how the gut’s microorganisms may change the level of malaria severity.
The scientists studied the gut microbiomes found within mice. The results, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that malaria’s severity is related to the parasite, the host and the microbes. This may help scientists develop better malaria treatments.
"Unfortunately, we are still years away from an effective and easily administered malaria vaccine, and drug resistance is a growing concern," Nathan Schmidt, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at Louisville, said.
Malaria, a disease spread by mosquitoes, causes chills, fever and flu-like symptoms. Most transmissions happen in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, and can be fatal if patients do not seek treatment.
"The research provides a potential new avenue to investigate factors that control the severity of malaria,” Steven Wilhelm, a professor in Tennessee's Department of Microbiology, said. “With one million people dying each year, many of whom are young children, any approach that may save even a few lives is worth following up on."