Scientists Believe That Malaria Can be Detected Without Blood Tests, by Simple MRI


Scientists Believe That Malaria Can be Detected Without Blood Tests, by Simple MRI

A recent study suggests that certain types of malarial infection can have more effects on the spleen early during infection, as compare to other types and that Medical Resonance Imaging (MRI) can be a safer, non-invasive method to evaluate infection-related organ, particularly during malarial infection. This study can be a step forward in understanding mosquito-borne malaria, which affects millions of people annually worldwide.

John Woodford and the team at Herston Imaging Research Facility, in Australia,performed an exploratory prospective study over 4 years, on 8 participants (age ranging from 19 – 23 years), to conclude that Plasmodium vivax has greater effects and early accumulation as compare to Plasmodium falciparum, and P.vivax, therefore, stays in the spleen of a patient with chronic malarial infection for a longer duration and surprisingly large amounts. This could be a reason why the in chronic case sudden relapse of malaria is attested in the blood tests. Potentially because the spleen has been acting as a reservoir of replicating Plasmodium parasite, harboring it longer. This study is believed to affect, current disease eradication strategies.

The team of researchers believes that P. vivaxfancies spleen more than floating around in the bloodstream, unlike P. falciparum, as the Positron emission tomography (PET) and MRI gave a better insight on what was happening inside specific organs of the people with induced blood=stage infection. And both imaging suggested the P. vivax was more abundant in the spleen because the spleen has more reticulocytes (young blood cells) that P. vivax feeds on.

More studies are needed to investigate the exact duration at which the Plasmodium parasite can infect the spleen. Woodford and his team inoculated the healthy, malaria-naïve participants with viable P. vivax (3 volunteers) and P. falciparum (4 volunteers) infected red blood cells, both of these parasites are known to cause malaria in humans. as mentioned earlier, two types of imagining that are, MRI and PET were used to assess the uptake of fluorescently tagged glucose substances in 3 organs, namely spleen, liver, and bone marrow, 1-week pre and post-infection. Glucose metabolism is considered a sign of cell activity of energy consumption. It was observed that only within 11 days of infection, glucose metabolism in the spleen was elevated more in P. vivax group than in P. falciparum group, thereby increasing the splenic volume. No noticeable difference was observed in the liver and bone marrow of infected individuals.

Woodford and his team, therefore suggest that alteration in the splenic volume and glucose metabolism could be due to harboring parasites or the hyperactivity of the organs. They have mentioned in their article that “The presence of a hidden compartment [in the spleen] affects our understanding of the basic biology and pathology of this common parasite and may have implications when developing antimalarial treatments”, Woodford also believes that they have demonstrated the effectiveness of using medical imaging techniques like MRI and PET for studying human infection like malaria and how these tests can non-invasively detect the early infection, like never before.


Malaria, Mosquito, Induced blood-stage malaria, Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium falciparum, Medical Resonance Imaging (MRI), Positron emission tomography (PET), early detection, medical imaging