Composition of the gut microbiota modulates the severity of malaria

Composition of the gut microbiota modulates the severity of malaria

Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease, and those with the illness often experience fever, chills and flu-like symptoms. It may be fatal if left untreated. Malaria transmissions typically occur in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Researchers discovered that the severity of malaria is not only a function of the parasite or the host but also is influenced by the microbes in the infected organism.

The findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

During the study, the research team found that genetically similar mice acquired from different vendors showed significant differences in pathology after infection with malaria. The researchers measured the mice gut microbiomes--via DNA sequencing of the bacteria in the digestive tract--and noted significant differences within the different populations.

Among the bacterial populations that were different between “resistant” and “susceptible” mice were Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, and treatment of mice with Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium resulted in decreased Plasmodium burden.

The researchers observed an increased abundance of bacteria common in yogurt in the mice that exhibited reduced malaria pathology. When mice were fed a yogurt containing these bacteria the researchers discovered that the severity of malaria decreased.

Author noted that while the research interventions lessened the severity of malaria in mice, it did not prevent or cure it.

The researchers are a long way from perfecting similar treatments in humans but are working on understanding the mechanism.

"A way to help people who are infected--and especially a simple and cheap way, as much of the infection occurs in the developing world--would be a great service to society," author said.