Do algae help against malaria?

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Do algae help against malaria?

Malaria can possibly be overcome with the help of algae. The dreaded tropical disease may possibly be treated efficiently on a plant basis. American researchers led by Julia Kubanek from the Georgia Institute of Technology have used the chemical compounds of a rare red algae species to fight malaria pathogens.

The research team led by Julia Kubanek presented its results on the effects of Callophycus serratus - a rare red algae species - at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington. As the scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology emphasized, the red alga contains chemical compounds that destroy the malaria pathogen "Plasmodium falciparum". The researchers hope that an effective drug to fight malaria could be produced based on the discovered active ingredient.

US researchers discover antimicrobial agents in red algae Every year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), between 300 and 500 million people worldwide develop malaria, with around one million diseases being fatal. On average, a child dies of malaria every 30 seconds and about 90 percent of all diseases affect the African continent, according to the WHO. The experts are particularly concerned about the increasing resistance to conventional drugs. Julia Kubanek and colleagues emphasized the urgent need to develop new active ingredients. Here, the US researchers have apparently taken a big step forward. When examining the rare red algae Callophycus serratus, which is native to the Fiji Islands, they discovered several chemical compounds that have an antimicrobial effect and are particularly effective in combating the malaria pathogen.

Rare red algae species also kills MRSA hospital germs The red algae themselves use their chemical compounds to protect themselves against fungal attack. This was also the reason why the researchers discovered them at all. During a dive in the Fiji Islands they noticed the strikingly clean surface of the red seaweed, which seemed extremely unusual given the large number of microorganisms that are at home in the reefs. When the red algae were subsequently examined in the laboratory, the scientists discovered that Callophycus serratus produces a large number of chemical antibodies that protect them against microbial attack. However, the laboratory tests not only showed that the chemical compounds in the red algae fight the malaria pathogen "Plasmodium falciparum" particularly well, but the active ingredient also killed other bacteria. Among other things, the dangerous so-called hospital germs, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Further investigations into the chemical repellants planned According to the researchers, the chemical repellents of the red algae are not distributed evenly over the entire surface, but concentrate at certain points. These are probably particularly vulnerable areas, such as injuries or damaged parts, in which the chemical compounds are intended to close and protect the potential point of attack, according to Julia Kubanek. Although the contained red algae repellents are primarily directed against fungi, the laboratory test has shown that the chemical weapons also act against other microorganisms, the US researcher reported. The effect on the malaria pathogen Plasmodium falciparum was most pronounced, Kubanek continued. Even low concentrations of the anti-fungal agents killed the pathogens in the laboratory tests. But there is still a long way to go to a possible new drug, the expert warned. According to their own statements, the researchers must first test whether the chemical compounds have no toxic (toxic) effects on animals and humans and whether they also fight the pathogens within an organism. In addition, chemical modifications are to be tested to increase the effectiveness in the treatment of malaria patients, explained Julia Kubanek. Her current results provide a good basis for further research, according to the US scientists. (fp)

Also read:
Algae preparations: Afa algae contain toxins
Anti-malaria drug discovered

Malaria is a serious infectious disease that, if left untreated, leads to death in most cases. The first symptoms of malaria are high fever, severe diarrhea and severe gastrointestinal cramps.

Image: Harald Häck /

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