- Malaria has detrimental effect on the skeletal muscle and the heart.
- The parasite takes away the normal ability of the blood cells to carry nutrients and oxygen to the body, leading to muscle soreness and fatigue.
- Regular exercise and a high protein diet particularly those with combinations of amino acid derivatives such as hydroxyl beta-methylbutyric acid can help fight the infection when it sets in.
Moderate or high levels of malaria infection typically affect skeletal muscles and the heart. The right amount of diet and exercise can help lessen damage to the heart and skeletal muscles, according to a new University of Texas Arlington study.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease affecting humans and other animals caused by parasiticprotozoans belonging to the Plasmodium type. The disease is most commonly transmitted by an infected female Anopheles mosquito. The mosquito bite introduces the parasites from the mosquito's saliva into a person's blood. The parasites travel to the liver where they mature and reproduce.
Each year, malaria afflicts more than 500 million people in scores of countries around the world, killing more than 400,000, according to the World Health Organization.
"Even more specifically, it causes degradation of proteins in the muscles responsible for contraction," Brotto said. "We were the first to reveal that. Many other studies have replicated our original research. For this paper, we reviewed all the literature related to malaria and the effects of malaria on muscles and the heart."
Brotto said, "Residual effects could be from the heart being weaker for some time to permanently suffering some damage," he said. "Muscles are also very similar. If you develop chronic myopathy, it becomes harder to get in shape. The parasite takes away the normal ability of the blood cells to carry nutrients and oxygen to the body. That triggers the process of the demise."
Even those with mild cases of malaria report a lot of muscle soreness and fatigue. He said people who eat healthy diets and exercise will be in a stronger position to vanquish the disease and to do so in a shorter amount of time.
Falciparum malaria is associated with skeletal muscle damage that increases during the course of the disease and directly associates with abnormalities in enzymes that synthesize energy-producing molecules.
Mauro Marrelli said, "There are interventions you could take prior to or in anticipation of an infection in order to improve the muscular and heart function. People would not feel so tired and so weak if they have a targeted intervention."
Examples of these interventions include anti-oxidant therapy through diet and medication. The authors recommend eating more uncooked fruits and vegetables and fiber as well as increasing protein intake through the consumption of meat, poultry, fish, legumes and protein shakes or powders, particularly those with some specific combinations of amino acid derivatives such as hydroxyl beta-methylbutyric acid or HMB.
Exercise is a great tool for combating the infection, too. "The better shape you're in, the more prepared you will be to fight the infection," he said.
The authors concluded, "Our plan is to continue our studies with some new genetic markers we recently obtained together in studies between our labs and submit a joint grant proposal to expand these studies since they also could have applications to muscle diseases."
- Marco Brotto, et al., UTA study shows exercise, diet could offset effects of malaria, Malaria Journal (2016) DOI:10.1186/s12936-016-1577-y.