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Hormones and drugs that control blood pressure also control malaria infection

CHICAGO --- Hormones that regulate cardiovascular function have been discovered to influence malaria infection. As a consequence, beta-blockers, which are safe, inexpensive and commonly prescribed drugs used worldwide to treat high blood pressure, are effective against the deadliest and most drug-resistant strain of malaria parasites.

These findings, by Kasturi Haldar, Jon Lomasney, Travis Harrison and colleagues at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, were reported in an article in the Sept. 19 issue of the journal Science.

Rather than targeting the parasite that causes malaria, an approach that has resulted in mounting resistance to a variety of antimalarial drugs, Haldar and co-researchers focused instead on identifying and blocking the process by which red blood cells allow parasite entry.

Haldar is Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor in Pathology and professor of microbiology-immunology at the Feinberg School.

Malaria is a blood-borne illness transmitted by mosquitoes. Forty percent of the worlds population lives at risk for infection and between 200 and 300 million people are afflicted each year, particularly in underdeveloped and impoverished tropical and sub-Saharan countries.

The most virulent form of the four human malaria parasite species, Plasmodium falciparum, kills over 1 million children each year and is responsible for 25 percent of the infant mortality in Africa, according to latest estimates by the World Health Organization. Recently, however, P. falciparum also has been confirmed as the cause of over 50 cases of malaria among the 625 U.S. troops sent into Liberia. Another strain of malaria, P. vivax, has been confirmed in seven cases in Florida.

World wide there has been a resurgence of malaria in recent years, due mainly to the parasites growing resistance to drugs and the mosquitos acquired resistance to insecticides developed to control the spread of the disease.
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Contact: Elizabeth Crown
e-crown@northwestern.edu
312-503-8928
Northwestern University
18-Sep-2003


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