While billions of dollars are poured into research and development for pharmaceutical drugs, the humble lime has been proven to mitigate and even cure diseases that cause millions to suffer and hundreds of thousands to die each year worldwide. Continue reading
Until the 1940s, the drug of choice against malaria was also the first antimalarial drug ever developed: quinine. Continue reading
Some of the most powerful health supplements can often come from very ordinary products. And, recent research has shown that one of the best ways to fight harmful bacteria is simply to drink some lime juice. Limes, those deliciously tart citrus fruits, are often passed over at the grocery store in favor of lemons, but can be an important part of a healthy diet. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should stop eating lemons-they’re an excellent healing food that can help your liver get rid of toxins. But, limes are just as effective at protecting your health-particularly when it comes to combating harmful bacteria.
Lots of supplements fight bacteria, Continue reading
Homeopathy is a specific form of alternative (holistic) medicine which was developed by Samuel Hahnemann, M.D., a German physician, in the late eighteenth century. At that time, people were being treated with poisonous substances to get the “bad humours” out of them by making them vomit, have diarrhea, sweat, salivate, and bleed. Many patients died from these treatments which included Continue reading
New research raises troubling concerns about the use of aggressive drug therapies to treat a wide range of diseases such as MRSA, C. difficile, malaria, and even cancer.
“The universally accepted strategy of aggressive medication to kill all targeted disease pathogens has the problematic consequence of giving any drug-resistant disease pathogens that are present the greatest possible evolutionary advantage,” says Troy Day, one of the paper’s co-authors and Canada Research Chair in Mathematical Biology at Queen’s.
The researchers note that while the first aim of a drug treatment program should be to make and keep a patient healthy, the patient’s immune system also has to be allowed to work.
They suggest several strategies Continue reading
The malaria parasite has gradually developed resistance to the most commonly used medicines. To make matters worse, several mosquito species that host and transmit the parasite have become resistant to insecticides, making it difficult to eliminate them from populated areas.
Now researchers at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB), south of Oslo, are studying and testing plant extracts that have been used in traditional African medicine to fight malaria. Ultimately, the researchers hope to find supplements and replacements for today’s conventional medicines.
Plants used in traditional African medicine may have an effect on the malaria parasite as well as the mosquitoes that spread the disease. A Norwegian pilot project is now indexing and testing these plants. Continue reading
Front temporal dementia is caused by a breakdown of nerve cells in the frontal and temporal region of the brain (fronto-temporal lobe), which leads to, among other symptoms, a change in personality and behavior. The cause of some forms of front temporal dementia is a genetically determined reduction of a hormone-like growth factor, progranulin. Scientists around Dr. Anja Capell and Prof. Christian Haass have now shown that various drugs that are already on the market to treat malaria, angina pectoris or heart rhythm disturbances can increase the production of progranulin. Accordingly, these drugs are good candidates for treatment of this specific form of front temporal dementia. The work will be published in the online edition of the scientific journal, Journal of Neuroscience on February 2nd, 2011.
Progranulin is needed in the human brain as a protective factor for sensitive nerve cells, too little progranulin therefore results in a progressive neuronal cell death. As for almost every other gene, there are also two copies of the progranulin gene in the cell. In patients with progranulin dependent front temporal dementia, one of the two copies is defective, leading to a 50% reduction in progranulin levels. To rescue the lack of progranulin, the Munich researchers tested various substances for their ability to stimulate the remaining progranulin production and identified a drug called bafilomycin (BafA1). They then examined the molecular mechanism underlying the impact of BafA1 on progranulin more closely. Growth factors such as progranulin are produced in cellular membrane inclusions, known as vesicles. BafA1 has an alkalizing effect on these vesicles: After administration of BafA1 the interior of the vesicles is less acidic – and this increases the production of progranulin.
This observation encouraged the researchers to investigate further alkalizing substances for their ability to raise progranulin levels. Among the substances that passed the test were three drugs that are already on the market to treat various diseases: a medication for angina pectoris (bepridil), one for heart rhythm problems (amiodarone) and the widely used malaria drug chloroquine. Chloroquine increased the progranulin level not only in experiments with mouse cells to normal, but also in cells from patients with the defective progranulin gene.
In a clinical study in collaboration with the University of London, the team of Prof. Haass and Dr. Capell will now investigate whether chloroquine actually helps against progranulin dependent front temporal dementia. The human studies can be started very soon, as chloroquine has been used on countless patients, so that serious side effects are not to be expected. Even though the Munich scientists are optimistic, Prof. Haass warns against exaggerated hopes. “Experience shows that the step from cell and animal models to the patient is always connected with considerable difficulties. It will take several years until we know, whether chloroquine can be used as therapy for progranulin dependent front temporal dementia,” says Haass.
In a daring experiment in Europe, scientists used mosquitoes as flying needles to deliver a “vaccine” of live malaria parasites through their bites. The results were astounding: Everyone in the vaccine group acquired immunity to malaria; everyone in a non-vaccinated comparison group did not, and developed malaria when exposed to the parasites later.
The study was only a small proof-of-principle test, and its approach is not practical on a large scale. However, it shows that scientists may finally be on the right track to developing an effective vaccine against one of mankind’s top killers. A vaccine that uses modified live parasites just entered human testing.
“Malaria vaccines are moving from the laboratory into the real world,” Dr. Carlos Campbell wrote in an editorial accompanying the study in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine. He works for PATH, the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health, a Seattle-based global health foundation.
The new study “reminds us that the whole malaria parasite is the most potent immunizing” agent, even though it is harder to develop a vaccine this way and other leading candidates take a different approach, he wrote.
Malaria kills nearly a million people each year, mostly children under 5 and especially in Africa. Infected mosquitoes inject immature malaria parasites into the skin when they bite; these travel to the liver where they mature and multiply. From there, they enter the bloodstream and attack red blood cells — the phase that makes people sick.
People can develop immunity to malaria if exposed to it many times. The drug chloroquine can kill parasites in the final bloodstream phase, when they are most dangerous.
Scientists tried to take advantage of these two factors, by using chloroquine to protect people while gradually exposing them to malaria parasites and letting immunity develop.
They assigned 10 volunteers to a “vaccine” group and five others to a comparison group. All were given chloroquine for three months, and exposed once a month to about a dozen mosquitoes — malaria-infected ones in the vaccine group and non-infected mosquitoes in the comparison group.
That was to allow the “vaccine” effect to develop. Next came a test to see if it was working.
All 15 stopped taking chloroquine. Two months later, all were bitten by malaria-infected mosquitoes. None of the 10 in the vaccine group developed parasites in their bloodstreams; all five in the comparison group did.
The study was done in a lab at Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and was funded by two foundations and a French government grant.
This is not a vaccine” as in a commercial product, but a way to show how whole parasites can be used like a vaccine to protect against disease, said one of the Dutch researchers, Dr. Robert Sauerwein.
“It’s more of an in-depth study of the immune factors that might be able to generate a very protective type of response,” said Dr. John Treanor, a vaccine specialist at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y., who had no role in the study.
The concept already is in commercial development. A company in Rockville, Md. — Sanaria Inc. — is testing a vaccine using whole parasites that have been irradiated to weaken them, hopefully keeping them in an immature stage in the liver to generate immunity but not cause illness.
Two other reports in the New England Journal show that resistance is growing to artemisinin, the main drug used against malaria in the many areas where chloroquine is no longer effective. Studies in Thailand and Cambodia found the malaria parasite is less susceptible to artemisinin, underscoring the urgent need to develop a vaccine.
YAOUNDE – Gorillas carry the parasite that causes malignant malaria in humans, a finding that could help in efforts to develop a vaccine for malaria, researchers say.
Malaria is a sometimes fatal disease, usually contracted from mosquitoes, most commonly in areas such as sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. People who contract malaria typically develop flu-like symptoms with high fevers and chills, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the new study, researchers analyzed fecal samples from 84 gorillas in Cameroon and blood samples from three gorillas in Gabon and found the parasite Plasmodium falciparum, which was previously believed to only infect humans. P. falciparum causes 85 percent of malignant malaria infections in humans and nearly all deaths from malaria.
The scientists also found that the gorillas carried two closely related species of malaria parasites: Plasmodium GorA and Plasmodium GorB.
The discovery of P. falciparum in gorillas complicates efforts to eradicate malaria, according to the study published in this week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent each year toward ridding humans of malignant malaria. But success may be a pyrrhic victory, because we could be re-infected by gorillas — just as we were originally infected by chimps a few thousand years ago,” study co-author Francisco Ayala, a biologist at the University of California, Irvine, said in a university news release.
Along with potentially aiding in the development of a malaria vaccine, this finding helps improve understanding of how infectious diseases such as HIV, SARS and bird and swine flu can be transmitted from animals to humans, the researchers noted.
Each year, malaria sickens about 500 million people worldwide and causes 2 million infant deaths. Four kinds of malaria parasites can infect humans: P. falciparum, P. vivax, P. ovale, P. malariae. Infection with P. falciparum, if not promptly treated, may lead to death, according to the CDC.