How much humanity does not fight malaria, so far it has not been completely eradicated. Despite the fact that the protocols of its treatment have long been known, the malarial parasites that are resistant to standard methods of therapy are gradually spreading in the world. Therefore, researchers continue to search for substances that could become a new medicine.
A group of scientists from Imperial College in London, led by Jake Baum, was inspired by the example of Chinese woman Tu Youyou, who received the Nobel Prize in medicine in 2016 for developing an antimalarial drug. Tu isolated it from the plant Artemisia annua, which is used in traditional Chinese medicine. British scientists have suggested that antimalarial drugs may also be the basis of other traditional methods for controlling fever.
They found five varieties of soup that interfere with asexual reproduction of the causative agent of the disease, and four more that block sexual reproduction. Among these broths are meat, chicken and vegetarian – which means that the next antimalarial drug may be of animal origin.
To do this, they asked elementary school students who came from families of different nationalities to bring a sample of home broth to the school. In total, they collected 56 samples. They were then frozen, centrifuged, sterilized and tested for antimalarial activity.
At first, the researchers evaluated how much the broths prevent plasmodium from multiplying asexually – using division. In some broths, malarial plasmodium was more active than usual, apparently due to the abundance of nutritious fats. But 5 of 56 samples blocked its growth by more than 50%, and two showed a result comparable to artemisinin – the same drug that Tu Youyou developed.
Then, the authors examined the broths on the ability to prevent sexual reproduction of plasmodium. For this, gametocytes (the sexual stage of plasmodium) were placed in the broth, which were moved with the help of flagella, and they were tracked which part of their flagella would lose. In four samples, flagella were able to deprive more than half of the cells – however, these were not the same samples that prevented asexual reproduction.
Scientists did not collect recipes for individual soups but found that they belong to different categories – meat, chicken and vegetarian. This means that different broths can have healing properties – and not just chicken, as some scientists and many other people believe. And also this could theoretically lead to the discovery of a new anti-malarial drug of animal origin.
The fact that they were not able to find one broth that would block both types of plasmodium multiplication, the authors do not consider it surprising, since the parasite cells at different stages differ in their physiology. The authors also describe the anecdotal case, which, in their opinion, confirms the reliability of their measurements: they found that two samples give very similar results – and then found out that they were brought to school by two children from the same family who studied in different classes.
Malaria has been accompanying humans for more than a thousand years – its traces were found even in ancient Rome. And only this year, researchers began testing the first vaccine with one hundred per cent effectiveness. And recently, by the way, it turned out that mosquitoes that tolerate malarial plasmodium better get infected after mating.