According to the World Health Organization, about a quarter billion people are affected with malaria every year and almost one million of them die. But the researchers the world over had been fighting to find out a cause why malaria kills some people and not others. A new immune cell seems to give the answer to this mystery surrounding malaria.
The immunologists from Monash University, Australia, have revealed that they have discovered a specialized cell crowding the bloodstream of acute malaria sufferers, a cell that seemed to switch off in different immune system. The research findings were published in the PLoS Pathogens journal, published by the Public Library of Science.
The immune system harbors numerous types of cells, known as T cells or T-regs, which perform different functions like keeping the system in balance. The researchers tested 33 malaria-infected persons in Papua, Indonesia, of which half were severely ill. The two sets of people had the same number of T-cells. But it was found that the T-cells in persons with severe malaria had changed to become extra-suppressive. This showed that severe malaria was caused by the extra-suppressive T regs. It was also found that those who were severely attacked had harbored more parasites and the immune cells needed to remove them were less active.
Earlier it was believed that severe malaria was caused due to gene mutations. With the new discovery that T-cells play an important role in malaria, the researchers think of new dimensions in the treatment of this killer disease.