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Wednesday, 14 November, 2001, 00:01 GMT
Garlic 'fights malaria'
Garlic appears to be very good for you
Compounds in garlic have been shown to be an effective treatment for malaria.

The finding provides yet more evidence that eating the humble bulb is an effective way to ward off a range of diseases.

Research has shown that garlic may tackle heart disease, cancer, the common cold and fungal infections.

Does eating garlic influence the outcome of malaria? There is evidence that yes, it may

Dr Ian Crandall
The new work was carried out by a team from the University of Toronto.

Researcher Dr Ian Crandall said: "Does eating garlic influence the outcome of malaria? There is evidence that yes, it may."

The compounds, called disulfides, occur naturally in garlic, onions and mahogany trees, and are known to have antifungal, anticancer and antibacterial properties.


For years scientists have suspected one of these compounds in garlic may be helpful against malaria, and have proven it in animal models.

We do desperately need new, cheap malaria treatments

Professor David Warhurst
The Toronto team tested 11 different synthetic disulfide compounds against malaria-infected cells.

They also tested the effect of these compounds on cancer cells.

While not all of the disulfides were effective against plasmodium falciparum, the malaria parasite, those that did fight it were also effective at killing the cancer cells.

Dr Crandall said: "We looked at the active compounds to see what they had in common. Apparently P. falciparum-infected cells and these cancer cells seem to have the same susceptibility profile."

Dr Crandall believes the mechanism of action may be on the glutathione system within the cell.

Crucial role

Glutathione is a small protein that plays a crucial role in protecting the cell.

It neutralises potentially harmful oxygen molecules, boosts the immune system and rids the cell of toxins. Without it, cells could not survive.

The protein is of particular importance in cells that rapidly reproduce, like cancer cells or malaria-infected cells.

Ajoene, the disulfide that naturally occurs in garlic, appears to work by blocking the action of glutathione.

This renders them vulnerable to damage and death.

Dr Crandall hopes these compounds may eventually be used to treat not only malaria, but some types of cancer as well.

Professor David Warhurst, of the Public Health Laboratory Service malaria reference laboratory, said it was true that fast-dividing cells were more susceptible to a host of chemical agents.

But he said more work would be needed to test the theory.

"We do desperately need new, cheap malaria treatments.

"The ones that we have are not really good enough, and they are expensive. Poor people get malaria, so there is not a lot of profit to be made from developing new drugs, but any drug firm that did so would get a lot of credit in terms of respect."

The research was presented at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in Atlanta.

See also:

03 Oct 01 | Health
Garlic 'prevents common cold'
01 Mar 01 | Health
Garlic tackles child infections
03 Oct 00 | Health
Garlic 'protects against cancer'
09 Jun 00 | Health
Researchers target garlic mystery
01 Feb 01 | Health
Mouthwash could tackle malaria
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