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Discovery to hasten new malaria treatments, vaccines for children
Date:4/23/2008

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- April 25 is World Malaria Day 2008 and despite the grim statistics out of Africa theres cause for celebration. Florida State University biologists have discovered an autoimmune-like response in blood drawn from malaria-infected African children that helps to explain why existing DNA-based anti-malaria vaccines have repeatedly failed to protect them.

The groundbreaking study is expected to speed and better inform the development of new treatments and vaccines that effectively target the unique medical needs of malarias smallest, most vulnerable victims.

FSUs research -- which focused on children in remote Nigerian villages who were younger than 6 and infected with Plasmodium falciparum, the most virulent form of the malarial parasite -- has shed much-needed light on heretofore poorly understood remnants of white blood cells that have long been known to circulate in malaria victims blood but were thought to be debris.

Researchers from FSUs Department of Biological Science were the first to observe that the white blood cell remnants actually are Neutrophil Extracellular Traps or NETs that both capture malaria parasites and engender unique, often deadly responses in the immune systems of very young children. As a result, they are far more likely to develop severe, coma-inducing malaria and die than are adults who may carry higher levels of the parasite but have survived repeated infections.

Those findings are described in the February 2008 edition of the journal Malaria. The paper was co-authored by FSU Associate Professor Tom Keller, Professor Ken Roux and graduate research assistant Pallavi Tawde and led by Kellers then-doctoral student Virginia Baker, now an assistant professor at Chipola College in Marianna, Fla.

The FSU news has emerged amid worsening data on malarias human and economic costs. Described 4,700 years ago in ancient Chinese medical writings and by the Greek physician Hippoc
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Contact: Tom Keller
tkeller@bio.fsu.edu
850-544-5380
Florida State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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