- July 10, 2016
- Posted by: emobile
- Category: Researcher's Corner
The Journal of Ecology Letters has published the work of researchers who uncovered the cause of worsen malaria infection. The scientists sought to understand what happens when the two most common malaria parasites cause infection at the same time, as they are known to attack the body in different ways. It was discovered that one of the two malaria types breeds the second one.
Researchers found in humans a parasite known as P. falciparum which infects red blood cells of all ages; while another P. vivax attacks only the young red blood cells. In the new study in mice with equivalent malaria parasites showed that the body’s response to the first infection produces more of the type of red blood cell that the second parasite needs. It was revealed that in response to the first infection, millions of red blood cells are destroyed. The body responds by replenishing these cells. These fresh cells quickly become infected by the second type of parasite, making the infection worse, the team says.
The finding could explain why infections with both P. falciparum and P. vivax in people often have worse outcomes for patients than single infections, researchers say. Until recently, it was unclear how two parasite species interacted during co-infections.
Professor Sarah Reece, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Biological Sciences, said: “Immune responses are assumed to determine the outcome of interactions between parasite species but our study clearly shows that resources can be more important. Our findings also challenge ideas that one species will outcompete the other, which explains why infections involving two parasite species can pose a greater health risk to patients.”
The study was carried out in collaboration with the University of Toronto and funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Natural Environment Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Human Frontiers Science Program.
Article: Facilitation through altered resource availability in a mixed-species rodent malaria infection, Ricardo S. Ramiro, Laura C. Pollitt, Nicole Mideo, Sarah E. Reece,Ecology Letters, doi: 10.1111/ele.12639, published 30 June 2016.