Gut bacteria linked to increased risk of severe malaria, finds study
New York, Oct 31: Researchers have identified multiple species of bacteria that, when present in the gut, are linked to an increased risk of developing severe malaria in humans and mice.
The findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, showed that mice harbouring particular species of Bacteroides were notably associated with an elevated risk of severe malaria.
A similar correlation was also observed in the intestinal tracts of children afflicted with severe malaria.
Bacteroides species were found to interact with other members of the gut microbiota to cause susceptibility to severe malaria. This could lead to the development of new approaches targeting gut bacteria to prevent severe malaria and associated deaths, said researchers at the Indiana University in the US.
Malaria is a life-threatening infectious disease caused by parasites transmitted through the bite of infected mosquitoes. The World Health Organisation's latest World Malaria Report estimates that 619,000 people died from malaria globally in 2021, with 76 per cent of those deaths occurring in children age 5 or younger.
According to the Nathan Schmidt, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University's School of Medicine, previous efforts to combat the disease have led to several advancements in malaria treatment and prevention, including new vaccines and antimalarial drugs, insecticides to manage mosquito populations, and improved health care processes.
However, he said new developments are desperately needed because the gains made in decreasing malaria-related deaths between the early 2000s and late 2010s have plateaued over the last five years.
"This plateau highlights the need for novel approaches to prevent malaria-related fatalities,' said Schmidt. 'Presently, there are no approaches that target gut microbiota. Therefore, we believe that our approach represents an exciting opportunity."