THE JOURNEY taken by malaria Plasmodium parasites for invasion of the liver may now be detectable, according to a new study. Identification of the ‘blueprint’ made by the parasite may lead to attempts to block disease transmission, development of new malaria drugs, and eradication of the disease, which kills an estimated 435,000 people every year.
Dr Stefan Kappe, malaria researcher in Seattle Children’s Center for Global Infectious Disease Research, Seattle, Washington, USA, was the senior author among researchers from Seattle Children’s Research Institute and commented on the actions of the parasite: “Essentially, the parasite makes a blueprint of the proteins it needs to infect the liver while still in the mosquito, far in advance of actually making the proteins once in the human.”
By investigating the complex stages of infection taken by the parasite, steps can be taken to protect against this and eventually disrupt the human-mosquito transmission cycle that allows the disease to thrive. Forward-planning by the parasite readies it for infection in the liver.
Dr Scott Lindner, Penn State University’s Huck Center for Malaria Research, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA, was a contributing author and explained: “The parasite has planned ahead, gathering the tools it needs to infect the human while it’s sitting in the mosquito waiting for this unpredictable event to happen.”
A vaccine protecting against malaria does not currently exist, but the blueprint discovered in this research may result in new options for disabling the parasite. Dr Kristian Swearingen, a visiting scientist from Seattle’s Institute for Systems Biology, Seattle, Washington, USA, also contributed to the publication and added: “With effective tools, we could see a day where malaria is completely eradicated.”