Despite humanity’s best attempts to eradicate malaria, the illness struck over 200 million people in 2017, based on the World Health Organization (WHO). Researchers are actively searching for new remedies, and now, a group reporting in ACS Omega has found that aҫaí berry extracts can reduce parasitoids in the blood and prolong the survival of infected mice.
Aҫaí is native to Brazil, where some conventional healers use the berries to treat malaria symptoms. Lately, the high antioxidant content of the grape-like fruit has boosted its popularity outside Brazil and has caused some to contemplate it as a “superfood.” This antioxidant activity stems primarily from polyphenols—compounds that have been linked to health advantages such as weight loss, prevention of heart problems, and decreased cancer risk. Susanne Mertens-Talcott, Fabio Costa, and colleagues wanted to find out if aҫaí extracts may treat malaria in mice, and if so, whether or not polyphenols in the berries had been responsible for the therapeutic impact.
The group extracted polyphenols from aҫaí berries and then treated malaria parasite cultures growing in a Petri dish with the extracts. They discovered that a class of polyphenols known as nonanthocyanin phenolics inhibited the growth of both chloroquine-resistant and -sensitive parasites. Then, the researchers orally directed aҫaí polyphenols to malaria-infected mice. The treatment reduced the parasitic load within the mice’s blood by 89.4% compared with untreated mice.