Severity of malaria is not only a function of the parasite or the host but also is influenced by the microbes in the infected organism. (Photo: Pixabay)
Washington: Microorganisms in the gut could play a role in reducing the severity of malaria, according to a new study that could help develop new treatments for the deadly disease.
The researchers examined gut microbiomes of mice. They found that the severity of malaria is not only a function of the parasite or the host but also is influenced by the microbes in the infected organism.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease, and those with the illness often experience fever, chills and flu-like symptoms. It may be fatal if left untreated. Malaria transmissions typically occur in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
"Unfortunately, we are still years away from an effective and easily administered malaria vaccine, and drug resistance is a growing concern," said Nathan Schmidt, assistant professor at University of Louisville in US. "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," said Steven Wilhelm, professor at University of Tennessee in US.
The researchers found that genetically similar mice acquired from different vendors showed significant differences in pathology after infection with malaria.
They measured the mice gut microbiomes - via DNA sequencing of the bacteria in the digestive tract - and noted significant differences within the different populations.
On directly transferring the gut microbiomes to other mice, the researchers were able to show that the differences in disease severity were transferred. They observed an increased abundance of bacteria common in yogurt in the mice that exhibited reduced malaria pathology.
When mice were fed a yogurt containing these bacteria the researchers discovered that the severity of malaria decreased. "These results demonstrate the possibility of modifying the gut microbiome to prevent severe malaria," Schmidt said.
While the research interventions lessened the severity of malaria in mice, it did not prevent or cure it, Wilhelm added. The researchers are a long way from perfecting similar treatments in humans but are working on understanding the mechanism. The study was published in the journal PNAS.