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Monday 24th October 2016

Tricky malaria bug hard to fight

13th December 2006

Making a malaria vaccine may be even tougher than scientists had imagined, new research has shown.

Three studies published online in Nature Genetics found that many more genetic variations of Plasmodium falciparum--the parasite that causes malaria--exist than was previously thought.

The parasite genome had showed remarkable flexibility in the face of a rapidly evolving human immune system, the defensive responses of the mosquitoes that carry it, and the drugs used to fight it, researchers said.

Between one and two million people die each year from the malaria parasite, most of them young children in Africa.

Now, scientists have mapped comprehensively the areas where the parasite's defences are encoded in its genome.

They have found a disturbing trickster quality in the parasite's coding processes, which allow it to 'cloak' itself in any one of a suite of cellular disguises.

If one variant is successfully treated, another might rise from the background making development of vaccines to combat malaria very difficult, the studies found.

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