P. Vivax Malaria 

#GS3 #Science #Diseases 

The parasite Plasmodium vivax, responsible for 7.5 million malaria cases worldwide, remains understudied. Not much is known about its dormant stage in the liver. 

  • An international team has developed a system to breed these parasites in the lab and then infect cultured human liver cells with it. This can help establish a robust liver stage assay in P. vivax-endemic regions such as India. 

What is the concern? 

  • Mosquitoes inject the sporozoite (spore-like) stage of the parasite into the skin when they bite, and the sporozoites travel to the liver. 
  • Imagine some 50 parasites enter our liver, each infect one liver cell or hepatocyte and multiply enormously to 10,000 or more. These can then move out and infect blood cells. 
  • As the number is very low in the liver, our immune system barely notices it. The parasite can remain in the liver in a dormant stage and relapse later. So there is an urgent need to find drugs for P. vivax which will kill both the blood and liver stages. 
  • Another complication is the emergence of drug-resistant malaria parasites. Certain malaria-endemic countries have even abandoned chloroquine for P. vivax treatment. Fortunately chloroquine is still effective in India. Therefore, there is an urgent need for development of a new class of drugs. The researchers add this assay could also be used to test if a specific anti-malarial drug would work for an individual. 
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