Compounds in garlic have been shown to be an effective treatment for malaria, the BBC reports this week. Scientists at the University of Toronto, led by Dr Ian Crandall, investigated the influence of garlic on the outcome of malaria. Certain compounds, called disulfides, occur naturally in garlic, onions and mahogany trees, and are known to have antifungal, anticancer and antibacterial properties. For years scientists have suspected one of these compounds in garlic may be helpful against malaria, and have proven it in animal models. The Toronto team tested 11 different synthetic disulfide compounds against malaria-infected cells. They also tested the effect of these compounds on cancer cells. While not all of the disulfides were effective against plasmodium falciparum, the malaria parasite, those that did fight it were also effective at killing the cancer cells. Dr Crandall said: "We looked at the active compounds to see what they had in common. Apparently P. falciparum-infected cells and these cancer cells seem to have the same susceptibility profile." Dr Crandall believes the mechanism of action may be on the glutathione system within the cell. Glutathione is a small protein that plays a crucial role in protecting the cell. It neutralises potentially harmful oxygen molecules, boosts the immune system and rids the cell of toxins. Without it, cells could not survive. The protein is of particular importance in cells that rapidly reproduce, like cancer cells or malaria-infected cells. Ajoene, the disulfide that naturally occurs in garlic, appears to work by blocking the action of glutathione, the BBC reported. This recent research was presented at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in Atlanta.