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Viagra may help cure malaria, research suggests

Viagra pill
John Greim | LightRocket | Getty Images
Viagra pill

Viagra may have more uses than the one that made it famous. Though marketed to treat erectile dysfunction, research has suggested it could treat diseases as wide-ranging as hypertension and prostate cancer.

Now, new research discussed in Popular Science says the little blue pill could fight malaria, an infectious, mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite. A strain of the disease called Plasmodium falpicarum camouflages itself by secreting chemicals that make infected red blood cells appear healthy—thereby fooling the immune system. Scientists found that Viagra prevents the disease from secreting those camouflaging chemicals, which in turns allows the immune system to pick out the cells where malaria is hiding.

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The World Health Organization calls Plasmodium falpicarum the most deadly form of the disease. Roughly half of the world's population is vulnerable to the disease, and half a million people die from it every year, according to the WHO.

Read the full story in Popular Science here.