Meal times may be key to managing malaria

March 9, 2018, University of Edinburgh
Credit: CDC

Malaria infections might be brought under control by managing the eating habits of infected people or animals, according to a new study.

Meal times are an important driver in enabling the disease to thrive, the findings suggest.

Tests in infected found that malaria parasites in the blood timed their daily multiplication rhythms to match when the animals were fed. When the mice's mealtime changed, the parasites altered the timing of when they invaded .

The parasites' rhythms were linked to daily changes of in the mice, the study showed.

Interfering with the biological pathways that link eating to parasite rhythms - perhaps through diet, or drugs that manipulate the process - could reduce both the severity and spread of malaria infection, researchers suggest.

An international team led by the University of Edinburgh studied the timing of parasite rhythms - in multiplication and red blood cell invasion - in groups of malaria-infected mice.

Changing the feeding times of the animals, by allowing them to eat during the day instead of at night, altered the timing of parasite multiplication from night to day, in line with the mealtime of the mice.

Scientists now plan to examine how differences in timing impact on parasites and the biological mechanisms controlling their rhythms, to better understand how to tackle infection.

The study, in collaboration with the University of Surrey, Stanford University and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, was published in PLoS Pathogens and supported by the Royal Society and Wellcome.

Dr Kimberley Prior, of the University of Edinburgh's School of Biological Sciences, who led the study, said: "We were surprised by how strongly malaria infection responded to changes in the eating times of the mice they were infecting. This offers a new avenue for research. If we can disrupt the link, it could reduce both the impact and the spread of ."

Explore further: Human antibodies undermine parasite sex

More information: Kimberley F. Prior et al, Timing of host feeding drives rhythms in parasite replication, PLOS Pathogens (2018). DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1006900

Related Stories

Human antibodies undermine parasite sex

February 8, 2018

Some people develop an immune response following a malaria infection that stops them from infecting other mosquitoes. The antibodies that these people produce are ingested by the mosquito and destroy the malaria parasite ...

Malaria parasite manipulates host's scent

June 30, 2014

Malaria parasites alter the chemical odor signal of their hosts to attract mosquitos and better spread their offspring, according to researchers, who believe this scent change could be used as a diagnostic tool.

Malaria's key to the liver uncovered

July 27, 2015

Scientists uncover a port of liver entry for malaria parasites in a report published in The Journal of Experimental Medicine. If these results hold up in humans, drugs that target this entry protein might help prevent the ...

Recommended for you

Sightings, satellites help track mysterious ocean giant

August 19, 2018

The sight of a basking shark's brooding silhouette gliding through the waters off western France is more than just a rare treat for sailors—it is a boon for scientists trying to trace its secretive migrations across the ...

Pigs form a visual concept of human faces

August 17, 2018

Contrary to previous studies, pigs appear to have better visual discrimination abilities than had previously been assumed. Cognition researchers from the Messerli Research Institute showed in a new study that pigs not only ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.