A new study suggests that some homemade soups – made of chicken, beef or vegetables — might help fight malaria.
Jake Baum of the Imperial College London led the research. He asked children at a London school to bring in homemade clear soups that their families would make to treat a fever. The children were from many different cultural backgrounds.
The soups were then exposed to the parasite that creates 99.7 percent of malaria cases in Africa, the World Health Organization, WHO, explained.
Of the 56 soups tested, five were more than 50 percent effective in containing the growth of the parasite. Two were as effective as one drug now used to treat malaria. And four soups were more than 50 percent effective at preventing parasites from aging to the point that they could infect mosquitoes that spread the disease.
Baum and his team reported their results recently in the publication Archives of Disease in Childhood.
"When we started getting soups that worked — in the lab under very restricted conditions— we were really happy and excited," Baum said in an email to Agence France Presse.
Baum also noted that it was unclear which foods made the soups effective against malaria.
"If we were serious about going back and finding the…ingredient, like good scientists, we'd have to do it in a very standardized way," he said.
The soups came from families from different ethnic histories, including Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. They had several main ingredients, including chicken, beef and green vegetables. Baum said the vegetarian soups showed similar results to the soups with meat.
Baum said his aim was in part to show children that scientific research can turn an herbal cure into a man-made medicine.
He noted the research of Dr. Tu Youyou of China. In the 1970s, she found that the herb quinhao was an effective antimalarial treatment. The herb has been used in Eastern medicine for two thousand years.
Tu’s research led to the manmade drug artemisinin, a drug now widely used to treat malaria. She won the Nobel Prize in 2015.
More and more people are becoming resistant to the drugs that treat the disease, which kills about 400,000 people a year. That means scientists will have to "look beyond chemistry” and find new drugs, Baum adds.
I'm Susan Shand.
Agence France Presse reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
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Words in This Story
soup – n. a food made by cooking vegetables, meat, or fish in a large amount of liquid
malaria – n. a serious disease that causes chills and fever and that is passed from one person to another by the bite of mosquito
fever – n. a disease that causes an increase in body temperature
backgrounds - n. one's history
expose - v. to introduce or show
mosquito – n. a small flying insect that bites the skin of people and animals and sucks their blood
ingredients – n. one of the things that are used to make a food,
herbal – adj. made of herbs