Malaria symptoms ruled by microbiome
The severity of malaria symptoms could be determined by the bugs colonising your bowel.
Malaria affects more than 200 million people each year and kills up to one million of them, mostly children. But why some individuals are more severely affected by the disease than others is a mystery.
Now a study by University of Tennessee scientist Nicolas Villarino and his colleagues, writing in the journal PNAS, suggests that the bacteria living in your bowel (or your microbiome) might be the answer.
Using laboratory mice, the team found that bacteria strains 'bifidobacteria' and 'lactobacilli' occurred most frequently in mice that were the most malaria resistant.
Dr Chris Smith of The Naked Scientists told This Way Up's Simon Morton that in subsequent experiments, the researchers showed that mice could also 'inherit' resistance or susceptibility from another mouse's gut bacteria.
The researchers speculate that the intestinal microbes are either directly manipulating the mouse's immune system, or are suppressing the growth of other microbes that might make the animals malaria susceptible.
The findings mirror similar observations among children in Burkina Faso, leading the researchers to observe that this "suggests the possibility that probiotic modulation of the gut microbiota in mice to control severe malaria may work in humans."