Kill Malaria Parasites by Clogging it With Cholesterol
The world will soon be saying goodbye to malaria since Drexel University scientists discovered that malarial parasites can be killed by giving a boost of cholesterol into their skin. The cholesterol makes it rigid and unable to pass through the narrow labyrinths of the human bloodstream.
This discovery was based on the study conducted by the as Drexel University scientists who used two small-molecule antimalarial drugs, one of which is undergoing clinical trials.
The results were interesting. The scientists found that both drugs increase sodium within the parasite and then kill the pathogen, leading to its demise.
The Hypothesis: Sodium Plays Vital Role in the Demise of Malarial Parasites
Although the scientists are baffled how an increase in sodium concentration leads to the malaria parasite’s demise. They came up with the hypothesis and some exploratory tests.
First, they studied the properties of the Plasmodium plasma membrane or the parasite’s outer skin before and after exposure to antimalarial drugs. The results were quite unusual. The scientists found that the Plasmodium membrane contains very low levels of cholesterol. The Drexel scientists hypothesized that the low cholesterol content allows greater flexibility for the parasite to travel through the human bloodstream and to withstand the stress of blood circulation.
With this assumption, the scientists propose that the sodium increase, caused by the antimalarial drugs, somehow interferes with that elasticity of the parasites.
Cholesterol Makes the Parasite Rigid
According to by Akhil Vaidya, PhD, a professor at Drexel University College of Medicine, cholesterol plays an important role in the demise of the malarial parasites.
“We believe that the cholesterol makes the parasite rigid, and then the parasite can no longer pass through very small spaces in the bloodstream.” – Dr. Vaidya
Vaidya added that the parasite cannot continue its lifecycle if it cannot enter red blood cells.
Thanks to the Antimalarial Drugs
The antimalarial drugs used by the scientist triggered a cascade of events that led to the demise of Plasmodium parasites. These drugs increase levels of sodium within the parasites’ cells, causing them to swell and erupt.
In addition, the sodium increase triggers a more complex cascade of events, eventually changing the parasite’s outer membrane and tricking it into early reproduction, making the parasite inactive.
Malaria Parasites are Deadly
Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by Plasmodium parasites. And it is deadly too. In fact, the World Health Organization reports that the parasitic disease kills more than 300,000 people per year and affects up to 300 million people.