Good gas

Published: Monday 30 September 1996

malaria research has thrown up yet another factor which determines why the disease varies in its manifestations in different people, from children to adults. Nitric oxide, a toxic gas and an air polluter, is also found in the human body. It can attack fungi, parasites and bacteria, either by killing them or interfering with their ability to multiply.

Trials on 191 children in Tanzania have not only revealed that nitric oxide can help the body put up a spirited defense against malaria, but also determine the type of malaria (for instance, cerebral malaria) which could affect the child. Out of 141 children with malaria, 86 had the cerebral form. The rest were either not infected or else had parasites in their blood but no malaria. Those children who had very low levels of the compound, fell prey to celebral malaria. But those with the highest levels remained healthy despite being infected.

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