Scientists demonstrate feasibility of preventing malaria parasite from becoming sexually mature

Jun 02, 2008

Researchers have demonstrated the possibility of preventing the human malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, which is responsible for more than a million malaria deaths a year, from becoming sexually mature.

The discovery could have implications for controlling the spread of drug resistance, which is a major public health problem and which hinders the control of malaria.

The life cycle of Plasmodium falciparum is complex, and it is not yet known what triggers the production of parasite gametes or sex cells. These sexual forms of the parasite do not contribute to malaria symptoms, but are essential for transmission of malaria between humans via the bite of a mosquito.

A team based at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, working with a colleague from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, identified a parasite enzyme that is instrumental in triggering the emergence of mature gametes within the mosquito. Their findings are published today in the journal PLoS Biology.

Dr. David A Baker, a Reader in Parasite Molecular Biology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and senior author of the study, comments: 'The enzyme we have discovered, a protein kinasea, is essential for the development of malaria parasite gametes. Working with genetically modified parasites, in combination with inhibitors of this enzyme, we have demonstrated that it is feasible to block the sexual stage of the life cycle of the malaria parasite.

He adds: 'This has exciting implications in terms of improving how we go about tackling malaria. If a drug can be developed that targets this stage of the life cycle, and combined with a curative drug, it would be an important new approach for controlling malaria transmission and the spread of drug resistance'.

Source: London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Explore further: Neutering project curbed feral cat population

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

An easier way to manipulate malaria genes

Aug 11, 2014

Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes malaria, has proven notoriously resistant to scientists' efforts to study its genetics. It can take up to a year to determine the function of a single gene, ...

Breakthrough in coccidiosis research

Jul 28, 2014

Biological researchers at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) are a step closer to finding a new cost-effective vaccine for the intestinal disease, coccidiosis, which can have devastating effects on poultry ...

Recommended for you

Researchers look at small RNA pathways in maize tassels

Aug 22, 2014

Researchers at the University of Delaware and other institutions across the country have been awarded a four-year, $6.5 million National Science Foundation grant to analyze developmental events in maize anthers ...

How plant cell compartments change with cell growth

Aug 22, 2014

A research team led by Kiminori Toyooka from the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science has developed a sophisticated microscopy technique that for the first time captures the detailed movement of ...

Plants can 'switch off' virus DNA

Aug 22, 2014

A team of virologists and plant geneticists at Wageningen UR has demonstrated that when tomato plants contain Ty-1 resistance to the important Tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV), parts of the virus DNA ...

User comments : 0