Scientists Stop Malaria With Viagra | Smart News

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Jerzy Dabrowski / dpa / Corbis

With more than 584,000 deaths from malaria each year, combating the disease transmitted by mosquitoes is a major global health priority. Now, reports Popular scienceby Alexandra Ossola, there is a new ally in the fight against malaria: Viagra.

A new study shows that Viagra can increase the spleen’s ability to filter malaria from the blood. Ossola explains that once Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite which causes malaria, strikes the human body, it “passes a very important [developmental] stage in human red blood cells found in the bone marrow. These blood cells are soft and malleable, which allows them to escape the blood-filtering spleen, which looks for firm or dead blood cells instead.

By bypassing the spleen’s filtering abilities, malaria can spread to the blood. But the researchers were able to put an end to this process with Viagra when they learned that the enzyme inhibitor that gives the pill its popular effects also stiffens infected blood cells. In the lab, they used an artificial spleen to filter blood cells infected and stiffened by Viagra – and learned they were “less likely to pass through the spleen.”

This is not the first time Viagra has had effects unrelated to the bedroom. For example, doctors now use the drug to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension (high blood pressure between the heart and the lungs) and altitude sickness.

Will malaria end up on this list? The researchers hope so. “This discovery could help find new ways to stop the spread of malaria in a population,” the team said in output.

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