CITY scientists have identified a link between different strains of malaria parasites that cause severe disease, which could help develop vaccines or drugs against life-threatening cases.
Researchers have identified a key protein that is common to many potentially fatal forms of the condition, and found that antibodies which targeted this protein were effective against these severe malaria strains.
The protein has sticky properties that enable it to bind to red blood cells and form dangerous clumps that can block blood vessels. These clumps, or rosettes, can cause severe illness, including coma and brain damage. Between 10 and 20 per cent of people with severe malaria die from it, and the disease – which is spread by blood-sucking mosquitoes – claims around one million lives every year.
Scientists from Edinburgh University worked with collaborators from Cameroon, Mali, Kenya and The Gambia.