News / Health

Researchers Confirm Presence of Malaria Parasite in Bone Marrow

FILE - An aedes aegypti mosquito on human skin.
FILE - An aedes aegypti mosquito on human skin.
Jessica Berman

Researchers say they have evidence the malaria parasite lurks in bone marrow, a spongy tissue inside bones where blood cells are produced. The discovery offers hope that new treatments can be found to fight the disease, which kills an estimated one million people each year.

The malaria parasite goes through a number of stages in its life cycle. After an infected mosquito bites someone, parasitic spores travel to the liver where they grow and divide. Then they enter the blood stream and multiply, causing the familiar symptoms of malaria - high fever, chills, sweats, fatigue, nausea and vomiting.

But there appears to be another place where immature malaria spores gather and hide - bone marrow. And once there, they can evade the body's defenses as they develop.

For about 100 years, researchers have suspected a small amount of the pathogen, called Plasmodium falciparum, burrows deep inside bones.  

“It was assumed that all of the blood stages of the parasite are somehow sticking to the blood vessels.  But these guys are not.  They are outside of the blood vessels.  They are in the hematopoietic system where blood is formed.  So drugs have to get there first," said Matt Marti, who specializes in malaria transmission at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts.

But drugs have a hard time penetrating to the bone marrow, says Marti, which may explain why malaria - out of easy reach of the immune system - is difficult to treat.

Investigators discovered the new reservoir of P. falciparum by studying the bone marrow of people who died of malaria.
 
Marti says the findings may help scientists find ways to target those reservoirs during a critical stage of the parasite's life cycle.

“So, it will be important to figure out whether current anti-malarial therapies are efficiently targeting that site.  And it will be important for new drugs to be tested - whether they can target that site efficiently," he said.

Researchers report on the role of bone marrow in malaria infection in Science Translational Medicine.  

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
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.

All About America

AppleAndroid