Link between malaria and salmonella infections

June 17, 2017

The Medical Research Council (MRC) funded study, published in Nature Medicine, found that in malaria-infected mice (which show exactly the same susceptibility to salmonella as is seen in humans) the body's natural response to defend itself from the dangers of heme, an enzyme that degrades it (heme oxygenase-1 or HO-1), very selectively affects the immune system, crippling the production of white blood-cells (neutrophils) that are essential to fight NTS. These crippled cells are unable to kill the bacteria, allowing them to spread freely.

"The key is in the rupture of the red-blood cells," says Dr Aubrey Cunnington, Clinical Research Fellow at LSHTM and co-author of the study. "Sickle-cell anaemia patients, where similar red cell damage occurs, are also more susceptible to NTS. But, numerically speaking, malaria is the most common cause of NTS. Where the incidence of malaria is decreasing, so are the salmonella infections."

The team identified Tin Protoporphyrin (SnPP) as a candidate for the prevention of salmonella infection. SnPP inhibits the activity of the heme oxygenase enzyme, reversing the susceptibility to salmonellosis in malaria infections.

But the authors say that careful testing will be needed before considering SnPP use in humans, as blocking the action of HO-1 may leave the heme free to cause tissue damage.

Source: London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine