A discovery that could make malaria easier to treat

Photo: CTK

Czech scientists and their Australian colleagues recently made a unique discovery which should contribute to the development of medication against malaria, making it easier to produce, safer and cheaper. The results of their study were recently published in the prestigious Nature magazine. Ruth Fraňková spoke to a member of the Czech team, Jan Janouškovec, to find out what kind of progress has been made.

“What we have discovered is a new species of sea weed which lives inside coral shells. It basically looks like small brown balls but it’s extremely tiny, just about five micro-metres in diameter. You couldn’t even spot it with a naked eye. Its scientific name is Chromera Velia.”

Why is this discovery so important?

“There are thousands of similar organisms living in the sea. The one that we have discovered is particularly interesting, because it is closely related to one group of parasites. These parasites cause serious human diseases, such as malaria and toxoplasmosis.”

In what way can your discovery be useful?

Photo: Gilles San Martin,  CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic
“Basically there are two fields of scientific research for which it can be relevant: The first is the field of evolutionary biology. We found an ancestor of malaria – its basically a picture of what this parasite looked like ages ago. We could now trace back how this parasite has evolved.

“The second field is the fight against malaria. I have already said that Chromera is closely related to this parasite. We think it may be possible to test some drugs targeted against malaria on this organism. It would make the development of the drugs much cheaper and easier.”

How was the testing done previously?

Photo: CTK
“Previously the research undertaken was done with the malaria parasite itself. But that is quite expensive. The agent of malaria is dangerous to humans and you need special growing conditions and special equipment and mainly a lot of money.”

The results of your study were published in the prestigious magazine Nature? How important is that to you?

“We mainly believe it is good for Czech science. More and more scientific studies made by Czech scientists are published in prestigious magazines and we hope that the Czech Republic will get a better name abroad.”