Antibiotics could help control malaria–study

* Antibiotics help build malaria immunity in mice

* Tests needed to see if technique works in humans

* Antibiotic cocktail may help in intense malaria regions

By Kate Kelland

LONDON, July 14 (BestGrowthStock) – People at high risk of malaria
may benefit from taking a cocktail of antibiotics as a
preventative step, according to the results of a study in mice.

Scientists from Britain, Germany and Kenya said the drugs
could prompt healthy people to develop a natural immunity to
malaria parasites, providing protection against future malaria
infections.

The researchers said that a natural immunisation technique
like this could only be used in specific settings, where malaria
seasons are high risk but relatively short, and where those in
danger could be sure to take the protective medicines before
being infected.

“The best application for this would be in areas where there
is highly seasonal malaria transmission like in the savannah
areas of Mali and Burkina Faso, where the malaria transmission
only occurs for a short period but is extremely intense,” said
Steffen Borrmann, from the Kenya Medical Research Institute in
Kilifi, who worked on the study.

The antibiotics work by causing a cellular defect in malaria
parasites during their journey into the liver of the infected
host, the researchers said in a report on their findings
published in the Science Translational Medicine journal.

This blocks the malaria parasite’s fatal conversion from the
liver stage to the disease-causing blood stage. The blocked
parasite inside the liver prompts the body to develop a strong
protective immunity to malaria, a bit like a traditional
vaccination, they said.

“But we are not developing this or proposing this as a
vaccine as such,” Borrmann said in a telephone interview. “It
would be one additional tool in the larger set of weapons
against malaria which could be used in certain circumstances.”

Malaria kills up to a million people a year, most of them
children living in Africa, where a child dies of the disease
every 45 seconds, according to the World Health Organisation. It
is caused by Plasmodium parasites, which are spread by the bites
of infected Anopheles mosquitoes.

MICE PROTECTED AGAINST MALARIA

Borrmann and his colleagues conducted the study by giving
preventative antibiotics to healthy mice and then infecting them
with malaria parasites. They found that the mice generated a
vaccine-like immunity against re-infection.

The results also showed that even when given low doses of
antibiotics, almost all the mice were protected from the fatal
brain complications associated with the most dangerous malaria
parasite, Plasmodium falciparum.

British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline is currently carrying out
late-stage testing in people of an experimental vaccine against
malaria and expects to see results by 2011. The company says
that if it proves effective, it will seek regulatory approval
for the vaccine, called Mosquirix, by 2012.

Borrmann’s team now want to test their findings in clinical
trials to see if their approach works in humans.

“If successful, periodic administration of antibiotics in
high-risk population groups, such as young children, may prove
to be a valuable tool for controlling or eliminating malaria in
regions of high transmission,” they wrote.
(Editing by Tim Pearce)

Antibiotics could help control malaria–study