Scientists discover malaria cure

SCIENTISTS in Queensland have developed a protein that cures mice of malaria and protects against re-infection.

The breakthrough could lead to a new and more effective treatment.

The findings have been published today in the prestigious journal Immunity.

Malaria is caused by parasites spread to humans by the anopheles mosquito.

The World Health Organisation says malaria killed 438,000 people last year, mostly young children and unborn babies, and nearly half the world's population is at risk.

Malaria typically causes flu-like symptoms including fever, chills, muscle and joint pain, headache and nausea.

The head of the molecular immunology laboratory at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Dr Michelle Wykes, and her team found a protein on the surface of a particular immune cell plays a crucial role in fighting malaria infection.

"Within the immune system there are dendritic cells ... the generals, and T cells, which are the soldiers. Dendritic cells tell the T cells when to attack an infection and when to put down their weapons," Dr Wykes said.

"The dendritic cells have proteins on their surface, which they use to send these orders to the T cells."

The team found another protein could override this and tell T cells to switch on and keep fighting.