The researchers, comprising scientists from Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) [新加坡-麻省理工学院科研中心], Nanyang Technological University (NTU), and SingHealth KK Women's & Children's Hospital, said having mice which can react specifically to malaria will speed up the search for vaccines and treatments for malaria. This is the first animal model with human immune system which scientists can infect with using human strains of the malaria parasite.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne parasite which affects over 60 million people worldwide and in serious cases, could be fatal. There is currently no viable vaccine for malaria and antimalarial drugs and prophylaxis are losing its efficacy as anti-malarial drug resistance is on the rise.
The ground-breaking findings, published last week in the prestigious academic journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (PNAS), showed that researchers have successfully identified a key host defence mechanism which revealed for the first time how malaria begins its infection. This has led to key insights into two important molecules which help the human body fight the parasite infection during the early stages.
During the initial phase of an infection by the malaria parasite, the first-line-of-defence cells known as natural killer (NK) cells will kill malaria-infected red blood cells if they detect them through the two discovered molecules. Such containment will help the body have more time to produce anti-bodies that will eventually kill all the malaria parasites in the second phase and defeat the infection. See News Release for more.
This research was featured in Asian Scientist.