Malaria boosted our immune system against COVID-19 – Research establishes

The impact of malaria prevalence in Africa had a significant influence on reducing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic compared to other continents, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Ghana, Legon. The study revealed that COVID-19 and malaria exhibited similar symptoms, with a majority of individuals being asymptomatic. The research also found that repeated exposure to malaria parasites led to the development of clinical immunity and tolerance. This acquired tolerance, resulting from frequent malaria infections, was found to aid in fighting against other diseases with similar mechanisms, such as COVID-19.

Professor Gordon Akanzuwine Awandare, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs at the university, shared the research findings during his inaugural lecture. The lecture, titled “How our immune system acquires tolerance to malaria and helped us survive COVID-19,” was a significant event in the university’s academic calendar, showcasing the achievements of its faculty members and allowing professors to share their research with peers.

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Prof. Awandare emphasized that malaria should not be regarded as solely detrimental, as the data indicated that tolerance to malaria-induced inflammation protected individuals from severe COVID-19 symptoms and death. The research conducted by Prof. Awandare and his team demonstrated that the immune system learned to tolerate malaria parasites through repeated infections, which inhibited further immune cell response. This reprogramming of immune cells, observed in malaria-endemic areas, protected Ghanaians and Africans from severe COVID-19 outcomes.

“Malaria is not such a curse.

Data indicates that malaria-induced tolerance to inflammatory stimulation protected us from severe COVID-19 and death,” he said.

These findings contribute to a deeper understanding of the global dynamics of COVID-19 infections and mortality. While the disease originated in Wuhan, China, in December 2019 and was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020, Africa, including Ghana, reported lower infection and mortality rates compared to other regions. Prof. Awandare challenged various theories explaining Africa’s low COVID-19 figures, such as the continent’s weather conditions, based on the research conducted in Burkina Faso, Nigeria, and Ghana involving over 20,000 individuals.

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Highlighting the importance of scientific capacity, Prof. Awandare called on Africa to be prepared for future pandemics and acknowledged the presence of capable scientists on the continent. He emphasized the need for supporting institutions like the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) to enhance scientific training and produce more significant scientific works.

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