The researchers also investigated if there is a correlation between the severity of malaria and the expression of ferritin in humans. Together with Bruno Bezerril Andrade (currently at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH, USA), Nivea Luz and Manoel Barral-Netto (at Fundao Oswaldo Cruz and Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade Federal da Bahia, Brazil) they analyzed samples from individuals infected with Plasmodium in Rondnia, a state in the north-western part of Brazil. Their results showed that, among the infected individuals, those with higher levels of ferritin presented reduced tissue damage. Together with the experimental data obtained in mice, these observations reveal that ferritin confers protection against malaria, without interfering directly with the parasite causing the disease, that is, that ferritin confers disease tolerance to malaria.
Miguel Soares says: 'Our work suggests that individuals that express lower levels of Ferritin and hence are not so efficient at sequestering toxic iron in their tissues might be at a higher risk of developing severe forms of malaria. Furthermore, our study also supports a theory that explains how protection against malaria, as well as other infectious diseases, can operate without targeting directly the causative agent of disease, namely Plasmodium. Instead, this defence strategy works by protecting cells, tissue and organs in the infected host from dysfunction, thus limiting the severity of disease.'
This study opens the way to new therapeutics that could confer tolerance to malaria.
|Contact: Ana Mena|
Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia