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Malaria out of rhythm

The parasite which causes malaria is affected by jet lag according to new research results.Malaria is spread by the bite of a mosquito which carries the malaria parasites. In Sub-Saharan Africa, hundreds of millions of people are affected and the disease kills approximately one million people each year.Scientists from the University of Edinburgh and the University of Oxford carried out a study in which they took malaria parasites out of their day and night rhythm. The parasites were inserted into mice which had a different body clock compared to the parasites.This caused a "˜jet lag' in the parasites because they were not in rhythm with their host any more.Most organisms have a body clock that is controlled through patterns of light and darkness. It gives the rhythm for many crucial functions such as sleep cycles, blood pressure and physical strength.The parasites which had a "˜jet lag' could only spread and cause an infections half as effectively as if their body clock matched the hosts.The scientists believe these results may help to develop new methods of treating malaria because it exposed one of its weaknesses. This could even help control the increasing problem of malaria resistances.Dr Sarah Reece, of Edinburgh University's school of biological sciences, who was leading the research said that the  " findings suggest that parasites have developed some clever tricks to get their timing right and cause an infection." and that "This is rare evidence that organisms whose body clock is in sync with their environment have a better chance of survival.""The more we know about how malaria parasites work, the better equipped we will be able to tackle them effectively."The whole study was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B and was funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Royal Society.
Thilo Reich

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