News / Health

Antibiotics Might Protect Against Malaria

Jessica Berman

People at high risk of contracting malaria might be protected by taking a combination of simple, inexpensive antibiotics.  That is the finding of a new study by researchers who say the drugs rally the body's immune system against the mosquito-borne parasite.  

Malaria infects an estimated three million people around the world each year and causes as many as one million deaths - most of them children in sub-Saharan Africa.

So far, experimental vaccines offer only partial protection against malaria, which causes high fever, chills, body aches and at worst, brain complications leading to death.

But a team of researchers has found that a combination of two widely available and inexpensive antibiotics - clindamycin and azithromycin - provided laboratory mice with protection against the parasitic illness.

Researchers say the antibiotic cocktail, given once a week at the height of malaria season, has the potential to protect people living in endemic areas and may even offer life-long protection the same way a vaccine would.

Steffen Borrmann is with the Heidelberg University School of Medicine in Germany and the Kenya Medical Research Institute in Kilifi.

"Here we would only give a drug periodically, as in peak transmission seasons in malaria endemic areas," said Steffen Borrmann. "And the hope is that this would generate protection for subsequent reinfections."

The antibiotics stimulate a strong protective immune response against the malaria parasite while it is in the liver of an infected individual, the symptomless first stage in the parasite's life cycle.

Borrmann says the immune reaction causes cellular changes that make it impossible for parasitic spores released into the bloodstream to infect red blood cells, the second stage of the life-cycle that causes life-threatening malaria symptoms.

The parasite then dies because it cannot infect the red blood cells it needs for sustenance.

Borrmann says that in an experiment with mice, those treated with antibiotics were protected when scientists exposed them to the parasite.

"It prevented [the conversion] to the pathogenic [the symptomatic] blood stage," he said. "That's the one thing that's been known for some time.  We have established that this is the mode of action.  But secondly, for subsequent reinfections again via the mosquito route, the animals are protected."

Borrmann says he is not concerned that frequent and widespread use of the antibiotics, including azithromycin, might lead to drug resistant strains of malaria.  He points to the use of the drug in the treatment of trachoma, a serious bacterial infection of the eye.

"So far, when, for instance, azithromycin has been used for mass treatment of trachoma in African countries over a year, there wasn't any evidence for the emergence of bacterial resistance," said Borrmann. "But that has yet to be seen, of course.  That will be seen as part of one of the first clinical studies."

Borrmann says the trials could begin almost immediately because the drugs are easily available at very little cost.

The study demonstrating antibiotic protection against malaria is published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid