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article imageHow does the immune system protect children from malaria?

By Tim Sandle     May 11, 2014 in Science
Some children who live in regions of the world where malaria is common can mount an immune response to infection with malaria parasites. Scientists have investigated why this response takes place.
Unlike individuals who are newly exposed to malaria, people living in malaria-endemic regions often do not experience malaria-induced fever and manage to control parasite numbers in the bloodstream. Specifically, the immune resistance allows certain children to avoid repeated bouts of high fever and illness and partially control the growth of malaria parasites in their bloodstream.
Malaria is caused by a single-celled parasite belonging to genus Plasmodium, is transmitted, by mosquitoes, in areas in over one hundred countries risking about 3.3 billion people. Mosquitoes spread the parasite to humans through their bites; the parasite then travels to the liver, where it matures and reproduces in forms that infect the red cells and cause clinical symptoms.
To look at this further, scientists analyzed immune cells from children in Mali who are bitten by malaria-infected mosquitoes more than 100 times per year, yet experience malaria fever only two times per year on average. The researchers collected blood samples from children on three occasions: before the start of the six-month malaria season; seven days after each child had been treated for his or her first malaria fever of the season, when symptoms had cleared; and after the subsequent six-month dry season, when little to no malaria transmission occurs.
The scientists found that cells collected after the first bout of malaria fever responded by producing molecules that control inflammation and destroy the malaria parasite.
It is hoped that the findings will allow scientists to develop future interventions that prevent or mitigate the disease caused by the malaria parasite. The research has been published in the journal PLOS Pathogens, in a study titled "Exposure-Dependent Control of Malaria-Induced Inflammation in Children."
More about Malaria, Children, Immune System, Parasite
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