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New malaria treatment approach boosts survival rates

(Xinhua)

09:41, June 06, 2012

VANCOUVER, June 1 (Xinhua) -- Canadian and Australian scientists have developed a new malaria treatment that has been shown effective in increasing survival rates of severe malaria by as much as 50 per cent.

The findings, published on a recent edition of the journal Science Translational Medicine, showed that a new class of anti-inflammatory drugs, innate defense regulator (IDR) peptides, prevented inflammation in the brains of mice with malaria and improved their survival.

Case fatality rates for severe malaria remain high even in the best clinical settings because anti-malarial drugs act against the parasite without alleviating life-threatening inflammation that damages vital organs, the scientists said.

However, using anti-malarial treatment in combination with IDR peptides, which was developed by Robert Hancock and colleagues from the University of British Columbia, could increase survival of infected mice while down-regulating key inflammatory networks associated with fatality, the study found.

As co-author of the study, Hancock said the findings support an approach to treating infections called host-directed therapy -- intended to target the host and not the parasite.

Louis Schofield, the co-author from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Australia, said that IDR peptides enhance beneficial aspects of the initial immune response, while dampening harmful inflammation.

"IDR peptides are also relatively cheap to produce and easy to use, making them a good option for medical treatments in developing countries," Schofield said.

Malaria kills up to one million people worldwide every year, particularly children under five and pregnant women, who often develop severe clinical symptoms such as brain damage and multiple organ failure.

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