Exploradio Origins: Solving the Mystery of Malaria

Sep 12, 2019

The malaria parasite is so good at making us sick, even killing us, you’d think that’s what it wanted. But, figuring out that that is not the case may be the key to eliminating it.

“The parasite doesn't want to kill its host, the mammalian host, because you have to have people with blood stage infections so the mosquito can pick it up,” Jim Kazura said.

“We see a lot of adults in sub-Saharan Africa who have a low grade infection in their bloodstream, but they're not sick. They're walking around.”  

Jim Kazura is a professor in the Center for Global Health and Diseases at Case Western Reserve University, and he’s interested in finding out what allows the malaria parasite to reach the “Goldilocks” stage of living in a human, without making them sick.

“If we understand that, we might be able to boost that response enough to have their immune response eliminate those low-grade asymptomatic infections,” Kazura said. “Because ultimately that’s what will be needed to eradicate malaria, because the mosquitos will no longer have a reservoir to continue transmission.”

Most malaria medication is aimed at making sick people feel better, but if Kazura can figure out how to eliminate the disease in people who feel well, the malaria parasite will have fewer and fewer places to live, allowing us to ultimately eliminate it completely.