A red alga native to the sea around the Fiji Islands could help in the fight against malaria. A US research team has discovered that the alga Callophycus serratus contains chemical compounds which can destroy the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. The algae produce various antimicrobial substances which appear to be aimed mainly at fungi. However, as laboratory tests have shown, they are also effective against several bacteria, such as the hospital germ MRSA and even cancer cells.
The scientists say that even small concentrations of the substances could also destroy malaria parasites, but that intensive research is still needed before they can be used in drugs; for example, tests must be undertaken to see whether the compounds are safe for humans and animals. According to the World Health Organization there are between 300 and 500 million new cases of malaria every year, and one million people die from it.