The spread of malaria parasite can be curbed and its long-term eradication achieved with the aid of medication combos based on the oldest synthetic malaria drug, methylene blue stain, according to health experts.
Tropical medicine specialists from the Heidelberg University Hospital studied 160 children with malaria in Burkina Faso, and found that in combination with newer malaria drugs, methylene blue prevents the malaria pathogen in infected persons from being re-ingested by mosquitoes and then transmitted to others.
AdvertisementThe researchers say that their findings show this treatment to be twice as effective as the standard therapy.
During reproduction in the human body, some parasites develop into special reproductive cells, gametocytes. When ingested by an Anopheles mosquito, they continue to reproduce in its body.
In the current study, the Heidelberg scientists tested the effect of combination therapies with artemisinins and methylene blue on gametocytes in the blood.
One group of the children received the standard treatment, consisting of a combination of artesunate and amodiaquine. Two other groups received methylene blue combined with one of the two drugs respectively.
The doctors checked the number of gametocytes in blood samples three, seven, and fourteen days after the start of therapy.
They observed that both combination therapies were twice as effective against gametocytes as the standard therapy: the parasites had almost completely disappeared in the first few days.
"Methylene blue not only inhibits the formation of the reproductive forms, but also destroys already existing cells. In this way, the profiles of methylene blue and artemisinins, which quickly and effectively eliminate the parasites in the red blood cells, complement each other," says Professor Dr. Olaf Müller, Project Head in the Department of Tropical Medicine and Public Health of the Hygiene Institute at the University of Heidelberg.
A research article on the study has been published in the online journal PLoS One.