Protein plays key role in transmitting deadly malaria parasite

May 28, 2008

The protein MAEBL is critical for completing the life cycle of malaria parasites in mosquitoes, allowing the insects to transmit the potentially deadly infection to humans, a University of South Florida study has shown. The research may ultimately help provide a way to better control malaria by blocking development of the malaria parasite in the mosquito.

Researchers with the USF Global Health Infectious Diseases Research team found that the transmembrane protein MAEBL is required for the infective stage of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum to invade the mosquito’s salivary glands. Their findings were published May 28 in the online journal PLoS ONE.

“The mosquito is the messenger of death,” said the study’s principal investigator John Adams, PhD, professor of global health at the USF College of Public Health. “If we could eliminate the parasite from the mosquito, people wouldn’t become infected.”

Plasmodium falciparum causes three-quarters of all malaria cases in Africa, and 95 percent of malaria deaths worldwide. It is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito, which injects the worm-like, one-celled malaria parasites from its salivary glands into the person’s bloodstream.

The study was done by genetically modifying the malaria parasites and feeding them in a blood meal to uninfected mosquitoes. Parasites in which MAEBL was deleted were not harbored in the salivary glands of mosquitoes, even though an earlier form of these parasites was observed in the gut of the mosquitoes. The researchers concluded that the transmembrane form of MAEBL is essential for the parasite to enter the mosquito’s salivary glands.

While more studies are needed, lead author Fabian Saenz, PhD, said the finding suggests that silencing the receptor for MAEBL in the mosquito salivary gland might block passage of the parasite through the mosquito, thereby preventing human infection through mosquito bites.

“Our study shows that MAEBL is a weak link in the parasite’s biology,” Dr. Adams said. “This could provide a potential way to block transmission in the mosquito, before the parasite ever has a chance to infect a new person. It is better to prevent the malaria infection from occurring in the first place than having to kill the parasite already inside humans with vaccines or drugs.”

Source: University of South Florida Health

Explore further: Determining America's most lethal animal

Related Stories

Determining America's most lethal animal

August 13, 2015

Animal attacks have been in the news a lot. Late last year, a 22-year-old student in New Jersey was killed by a black bear he had been photographing. This summer, swimmers off the coast of North Carolina have suffered a record ...

Mosquitoes may also be a vector for Rickettsia felis

June 9, 2015

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers with Aix Marseille Université in France has found that mosquitoes might be not only carrying the bacteria Rickettsia felis, but might be transmitting it to humans in Africa as well, causing ...

Professors experiment with handheld DNA sequencer

June 11, 2015

In February, when snowfall closed campus and kept her away from the lab, a Virginia Commonwealth University professor who was stuck at home did the kind of work typically reserved for scientists with ample lab space, large ...

Recommended for you

Long-sought chiral anomaly detected in crystalline material

September 3, 2015

A study by Princeton researchers presents evidence for a long-sought phenomenon—first theorized in the 1960s and predicted to be found in crystals in 1983—called the "chiral anomaly" in a metallic compound of sodium and ...

Making nanowires from protein and DNA

September 3, 2015

The ability to custom design biological materials such as protein and DNA opens up technological possibilities that were unimaginable just a few decades ago. For example, synthetic structures made of DNA could one day be ...

Amateur paleontologist finds rare fossil of fish in Arizona

September 3, 2015

Growing up, Stephanie Leco often would dig in her backyard and imagine finding fossils of a tyrannosaurus rex. She was fascinated with the idea of holding something in her hand that was millions of years old and would give ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.