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Bill Gates is buying up Viagra in bulk. It's not what you think

Bill Gates is buying up Viagra in bulk. It's not what you think
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Thanks to the Internet and celebrity gossip TV, we know way too much about celebrities' personal lives these days. So when I heard that Bill Gates was buying Viagra, I put it in the column of "too much information" and went about my life.

It turns, however, that there's actually a serious story here. As you probably know, Bill Gates runs the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that's committed to eradicating major diseases in Africa.

For a while now, the foundation has been focused on malaria, which in 2013 killed an estimated 584,000 people worldwide, many of them children in Africa. That number, as terrifying as it is, is actually good news, considering an estimated 198 million people were infected in 2013.

In fact, the death rate is down to 47% since 2000, which is amazing. However, that's not the same thing as 100%, which is the goal. Even more sobering is that well over half a million people still died from a mosquito-borne disease.

So, where does Viagra figure in this fight against a deadly disease? It turns out that Viagra actually helps the body identify malaria-infected red blood cells.

Typically, malaria-infected cells are soft and squishy so they pass right through the spleen. Otherwise, the spleen could filter them out.

Viagra stops the enzyme that causes the cells to become squishy, which lets the spleen identify them better. In lab tests, an artificial spleen filtered out a lot more malaria-infected cells when Viagra was present in the blood.

Once scientists figure out exactly how Viagra is blocking the enzyme, this could be a valuable treatment for people who have been infected with malaria.

Interesting fact: Did you know Viagra was originally meant to be a heart medicine before doctors discovered its interesting ... er ... side effect?

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Source: The Register
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