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Malaria Study Suggests Drugs Should Target Female Parasites

Update Date: Nov 28, 2012 08:06 AM EST

A new study suggests that in order to tackle malaria, perhaps a different approach toward developing drugs and vaccines for the disease may be helpful.  

The research, by scientists from the University of Edinburgh, into the malaria causing parasites (males and females) suggests that treatment would be more effective if it is targeted at female forms of the parasite.

The research revealed that male parasites are more capable of adapting to new surroundings when compared to female parasites.  Thus, after a mosquito bite, once the blood stream is affected with malaria virus, the male mosquitoes are able to able quickly reach to the repeated attacks by the immune system and are likely to be harder to treat with drugs and vaccines, Medical Xpress reported.

For the study, the researchers studied the genetic fingerprint of different species of malaria parasites at different stages in their life cycles. The research suggested that the male parasite genes tend to evolve faster with time, when compared to females. Thus, it will be more productive to target the females in killing the infection in the long term, and would also prevent breeding and spreading of the parasites.

"Malaria is notorious for evolving to evade treatment - it is crucial that drugs and vaccines are designed to target the slower, female, form of the parasite," said Dr. Sarah Reece of the University of Edinburgh's School of Biological Sciences, who co-led the study.

The research was carried out in collaboration with the University of Glasgow, Leiden University Medical Centre, Netherlands, and the Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics in Warsaw of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

It was published in the journal Evolution, Medicine and Public Health.

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