School project reveals that minestrone might combat malaria

Illustration for article titled School project reveals that minestrone might combat malaria
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It’s still too early to say for sure, but a bunch of 4- to 11-year-olds in London might have been instrumental to a major medical breakthrough.


Malaria, a disease responsible for the deaths of almost 500,000 people per year, is contracted via a parasite transmitted from mosquito bites. Antimalarial drug resistance is a consistent problem, so modern science is always fighting to stay a step ahead in treatment options. Elementary school students bringing test tubes of soup to class for a science project might not seem the likeliest candidates for aiding in the fight against malaria, but when Eden Primary parent Jake Baum, a cell biologist, wanted to teach the kids about medical research and lab testing, he figured soup cures—a classic homemade method of curing what ails ya—were a good way to separate the science from the “hocus-pocus.”

As Baum told NPR, “It was not the plan to discover anything.” But sure enough, five soup samples, spun through a centrifuge to separate different substances and then tested for their resistance to the malaria-spreading parasite, did turn out to block transmission of the parasite by as much as 50%. Minestrone recipes tended to have a particularly strong effect, for reasons unknown; no research is currently underway to continue this soup study, though Baum noted he’d love to see it performed globally.

The results were nevertheless published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood this November, with the children all listed as authors. Even if scientists never end up developing an antimalarial superbroth, Baum has chosen to see the positive side: “Every kid can say they’ve had their first scientific paper.”

Marnie Shure is editor in chief of The Takeout.



The effect here is likely down to salt.

This was an in vitro test. They basically dumped broth onto cultured Malaria parasites and watched what happened. It didn’t take place in living creatures, and has nothing to do with consuming soup. You eat soup and you don’t end up with broth running through you’re veins.

You can kill Malaria by spraying bleach on it. You can’t treat or prevent Malaria by injecting or drinking bleach.

Salt is a pretty strong anti-microbial. Because its powerfully hydroscopic. It basically pulls water out of things. Including bacteria and single cell parasites like Malaria. It either descicates and kills them or actually causes them to burst by pulling all the water out of them when the salt is at a high enough concentration.

Soup tends to be salty. Especially packaged soup.

And honestly even if its not salt, its not surprising. For something blood bourn like Malaria just water might be enough to kill it on its own. These things are meant to live inside the cells and systems of living creatures. Of course they can live and spread in fucking soup.

All this really tells you is that Malaria can’t live in soup. Which we already pretty much knew cause it’s not a food bourn illness. And these sort of squirt some stuff on cells studies aren’t really all that useful. With purified substances and human or animal cell lines involved, and a specific mechanism in mind it can be the earliest bench science stage in tracking something down. But it is in no way a plausible way to test if the consumption of soup has an impact on disease. Or even a sensible way to locate substances in a soup might have medical use.