In 2020, researchers estimated that 627,000 people died of malaria. Unfortunately, many of these deaths were children – particularly in areas such as sub-Saharan Africa. Scientists and researchers have been working to discover new therapies and preventative measures against malaria, as well as ways to stop the spread. According to Medical XPress, researchers from the University of Sheffield found that targeting parasite DNA could be a combative measure.
To determine its potential efficacy, researchers targeted Flap Endonuclease, an enzyme which debranches forked DNA. The team believes that, through inhibiting Flap Endonuclease, it could collapse the entire parasitic genome. Thus, the parasite would die, reducing the spread.
While this shows promise, researchers have not yet reached a point where targeting parasite DNA could stop the spread of malaria. More research is needed in the future to evaluate this process. Additionally, researchers must identify potential molecules or therapies which could target parasitic Flap Endonuclease without harming human cells or enzymes.
However, this does signify hope for the future of malaria treatment – and hope for those who are disproportionately affected.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne illness caused by Plasmodium parasites. These parasites are spread through infected Anopheles mosquitoes. Each year, there are over 240 million cases of malaria worldwide, with around 2,000 occurring within the United States. This illness is more common in areas such as South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Symptoms, which typically appear between 7-30 days following infection, can include:
- High fevers
- Drenching sweats
- Chest and abdominal pain
- Shaking chills
- General malaise
- Mild jaundice
- Muscle pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Seizures, especially in young children
- Hemoglobinuria (hemoglobin in the urine – complication)
- Hyperparasitemia (complication in which malaria parasites have infected more than 5% of red blood cells)
- Cerebral malaria (complication)
- Anemia (complication)
- Difficulty breathing and/or respiratory distress (complication)
- Low blood sugar (complication)
- Organ failure
Malaria is severe, though it is treatable. However, in some cases, malaria can be fatal.