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Recently it was reported that the World Health Organisation WHO in its official communications substantially underestimates the number of malaria fatalities. These were not 655,000 per year as noted by WHO but 1.2 millions instead. Unfortunately, misjudgements of this kind is in the nature of things: In regions where children die from malaria health care is poor, otherwise they would be treated in time and not die. Accordingly, there are no reliable estimates of fatalities in these parts of the world, and one should be very cautious as to the accuracy of such numbers. Anyway, they are disturbingly high and once again confirm the urgent need to develop efficient control measures.
Red blood cells that are infected by malaria parasites adhere to the walls of our small blood vessels thereby causing alterations of the microcirculation and organ damage. When this occurs in the brain, it’s known as cerebral malaria.
These are the boring and unloved results that no scientific journal likes to publish, yet are very important. Nearly all biological and immunological studies use pathogens that are artificially grown in incubators.
As the efficiency of the malaria vaccine RTS,S (Mosquirix™) has decreased considerably over time, we have looked for a means to prolong the protective effect by manipulating the immune response in a mouse model.
In sub-Saharan Africa, it is common practice to treat all children with fever for malaria. If they don’t get better within a few days, other causes for the disease are considered.
We determined almost a million mutations in each of 1,400 children affected by severe malaria and 800 unaffected children, and then deduced an additional roughly five million mutations by imputation (see p.67). Besides the expected unequal distribution of the sickle-cell trait and blood group O, significant differences between diseased and healthy children were newly identified in two regions of the genome and these were confirmed in 3,500 additional children.
Malaria parasites stay inside erythrocytes (red blood cells) the longest time they spend in humans. There they reproduce asexually, and it is during this time that they cause disease. They fundamentally restructure their “host” cells and, for this purpose, need to secrete into them many different proteins.
Malaria parasites consist of only a single cell, but they carry beneath their surface a complex system of membranes that is called the inner membrane complex (IMC).