An investigation into the mysterious inner workings of the malaria parasite has revealed that it survives and proliferates in the human bloodstream thanks in part to a single, crucial chemical that the parasite produces internally.
According to scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and Stanford Medical School, reporting in the journal PLoS Biology, this insight immediately provides a powerful new tool for discovering and designing drugs to treat malaria, which infects hundreds of millions of people around the world each year and claims about a million lives -- mostly children.
The work also gives researchers a hypothetical new vaccine to test: a weakened version of the parasite, which the scientists grew in the test tube by supplying it with the chemical it needed to live while at the same time treating it with drugs to eliminate its ability to produce that chemical on its own.
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"Chemical Rescue of Malaria Parasites Lacking an Apicoplast Defines Organelle Function in Blood-Stage Plasmodium falciparum." (http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pbio.1001138)