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Malaria soup? How a school experiment found discoveries about home-made remedies

"So if my mother or grandmother tells me they will give me this tea and it will make me better. Someone comes along saying, 'Oh, that was just a hawk, I'll give you real medicine,'" what is the difference?" asked Baum, who is a professor of infectious diseases at Imperial College London.

"We thought the difference was proof: If you take a natural medicine and try it and it works, then now it's also a cure," Baum said. "So we came up with the soup project. We asked the children to bring in the traditional soup their family would make when someone was not feeling well. ”

Sixty soups arrived, all incredibly diverse. The children from Eden Elementary School, who Braum Gillie's son and daughter Rudy attend, care for families from all over Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

They were all supposed to be vegetarian, meat or chicken broth based soups that the family had passed on through the generations for their restorative properties.

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"Kids bought in the most luxurious soups, even though we told them not to," Baum said. "The idea was to try to get some clear extract from it."

Which soup did you think would win? His Jewish family's chicken soup "is designed to cure all the ailments," he said. After all, there is some science behind the idea that chicken soup can cure a cold.

Working with children, Baum successfully filters 56 of the soups he takes back to the lab to check for healing properties.

Deadly parasite

What would be the test? Why malaria, of course, since that's Baum's job. He and his team at Imperial College's Department of Life Sciences study the most deadly malaria parasite, called P. falciparum, responsible for 99% of malaria deaths.

According to the World Health Organization, in 2017 there were approximately 219 million cases of malaria transmitted by mosquitoes in 2017 affecting 87 countries. There were 435,000 deaths this year.

Nearly half a million children die each year from malaria transmitted by infected mosquitoes, Baum says. Most are under the age of five.

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] "At the moment, we are at a crossroads in global malaria control," Baum said. "We have made decades of progress in reducing the number of deaths since the beginning of the millennium. But we have somehow reached a point where we have somehow stopped in our progress and there are some worrying signs of drug resistance just by having antibiotic resistance. bacteria. "

Even front-line antimalarial drugs, called artemisinin-based combination therapies, or ACT, are beginning to lose their effectiveness as the parasite develops resistance.

"The malaria parasite is one of many ancient parasites," Baum said. "It's a very complex entity: it can change its shape, it can change its biology, and it makes it much harder to develop new drugs and new therapists."

Surprising result

, Baum and his team did not plan to complete all 56 tests; after all, no one expected the soup to kill a malaria parasite.

"We thought we would just go," Baum said. "And we were quite surprised, some of the soups had really good activity against the parasite."

In fact, five of the 56 soups blocked the growth of parasites in the human blood phase by about 50%; two of them were as effective as the leading antimalarial dididroartemisinin. Four other broths were able to block the sexual development of the male parasite by about 50%.

"One of the most effective soups was vegetarian, fermented soup," Baum. "And you know, people sing the praises of kimchi and other fermented cabbage, so maybe there's something in that."

Baum published the results of the soup project on Monday in the BMJ magazine. Will he continue to detect antimalarial ingredients in soups? No, this project is for others, he said.

"There are a lot of people who work on testing purified natural products that are taken from plants, from traditional medicines. From time to time, you come across something that really works," Baum said.

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One of the challenges, he continued, is that plants create extremely complex molecules that science still cannot synthesize, much less deliver on a huge scale, needed to combat malaria transmission worldwide, "

" But this should not stop us from watching, "Baum said, pointing to his simple experiment in elementary school.

"It just goes to show that there may be drugs that have not yet been discovered, and we should not turn our eyes to traditional medicine simply because it has not yet been tested."

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