Originally developed as a treatment for high blood pressure, the world’s favorite “little blue pill” has an array of uses outside the bedroom—it can treat prostate cancer, address pulmonary hypertension and even keep your cut flowers pert. Now, a new study has found that Viagra can also help prevent the spread of malaria. The collaborative research by French and English scientists found that Viagra can alter red blood cells to prevent the parasite carrying the disease from being transmitted from humans to mosquitoes.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are around 198 million cases of malaria each year and 500,000 deaths worldwide—and there is currently no assuredly effective vaccine or treatment against the illness. The disease, which causes fever, chills, nausea and vomiting is caused by parasites that infect and grow within red blood cells, and are transmitted from one human to another via mosquito bites.

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These parasites evade detection by the human body by making red blood cells “squishy” so as to appear healthy—abnormal or dead blood cells are firmer and filtered out by the spleen. What the researchers found is that Viagra’s capacity to relax muscles so as to increase blood flow—that’s the bit that’s helpful in the bedroom—can also harden the red blood cells, and in doing so trigger the spleen’s natural cleansing power.

The study, published in PLoS Pathogens, found the treatment effective in an artificial spleen, and the authors hope to develop a new form of antimalarial which utilizes a modified version of Viagra that will not trigger an erectile effect.

+ PLoS Pathogens

Via Popular Science

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