Genome scientists develop novel approaches to studying widespread form of malaria

February 8, 2019, University of Maryland School of Medicine
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Scientists at the Institute of Genome Sciences (IGS) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) have developed a novel way with genome sequences to study and better understand transmission, treat and ultimately eradicate Plasmodium vivax, the most widespread form of malaria. P. vivax is a single-celled transmitted by mosquitoes. It is the most widespread human malaria parasite, responsible for more than 8.5 million clinical malaria cases worldwide and threatening more than two billion people in 90 countries. Unlike Plasmodium falciparum, another species of malaria, P. vivax cannot be cultured in vitro and remains poorly understood and resilient to elimination efforts.

IGS researchers teamed with researchers at the Institut Pasteur in Cambodia to analyze the parasite gene expression profiles from P. vivax patients enrolled in a study to determine the effectiveness of chloroquine as a malaria treatment. Using a combination of genomic and bioinformatic approaches, they compared the parasite transcriptomes, or set of Ribonucleic acid (RNA) molecules, from different patient infections and analyzed how the responded to chloroquine, a common antimalarial drug, according to the research, which was published in Nature Communications.

"By analyzing the parasite mRNAs directly from infected patient blood samples, we were able to observe that not all infections contained the same proportion of the male and female parasites that are required for infecting mosquitoes and propagating the disease. This observation suggests that parasite transmission is more complex that we previously thought and, perhaps, that the parasite is able to modify its development to ensure optimal survival," said David Serre, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and a member of IGS.

Dr. Serre, who is Principal Investigator, said researchers analyzed the gene expression changes induced by chloroquine treatment and demonstrated that this antimalarial drug, while efficiently eliminating P. vivax parasites, acts differently that it does on P. falciparum parasites. "This emphasizes the biological differences between these two human malaria parasites and the importance to specifically study this important pathogen if we hope to eventually eliminate malaria worldwide," he said.

Genome sequencing studies have provided unique insights on this neglected human parasite, but are limited to identifying biological differences encoded in the DNA sequence. However, gene expression studies, which could provide information on the regulation of the parasite life cycle and its response to drugs, have been challenging to implement for this pathogen due to the heterogeneous mixture of parasite stages present in every patient's infection.

"This important research will help us better understand how to treat, prevent and ultimately eliminate this species of malaria. This is particularly critical amid a growing concern of drug resistance to antimalarial treatments," said UMSOM Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, Ph.D., MBA, University Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor.

Explore further: Genome structure of malaria parasites linked to virulence

More information: Adam Kim et al, Plasmodium vivax transcriptomes reveal stage-specific chloroquine response and differential regulation of male and female gametocytes, Nature Communications (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-08312-z

Related Stories

Genome structure of malaria parasites linked to virulence

February 4, 2019

An international research team led by scientists at the University of California, Riverside, and the La Jolla Institute for Immunology has found that malaria parasite genomes are shaped by parasite-specific gene families, ...

Research offers new insights into malaria parasite

May 18, 2018

A team of researchers led by a University of California, Riverside, scientist has found that various stages of the development of human malaria parasites, including stages involved in malaria transmission, are linked to epigenetic ...

Genome technology boosts malaria control efforts

June 27, 2016

While most malaria research has focused on the parasite Plasmodium falciparum, which is common in Africa, another parasite, Plasmodium vivax (P.vivax) is responsible for the majority of malaria infections outside this region, ...

Recommended for you

Light-based production of drug-discovery molecules

February 18, 2019

Photoelectrochemical (PEC) cells are widely studied for the conversion of solar energy into chemical fuels. They use photocathodes and photoanodes to "split" water into hydrogen and oxygen respectively. PEC cells can work ...

Solid-state catalysis: Fluctuations clear the way

February 18, 2019

The use of efficient catalytic agents is what makes many technical procedures feasible in the first place. Indeed, synthesis of more than 80 percent of the products generated in the chemical industry requires the input of ...

Sound waves let quantum systems 'talk' to one another

February 18, 2019

Researchers at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory have invented an innovative way for different types of quantum technology to "talk" to each other using sound. The study, published Feb. 11 in Nature ...

3 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Thorium Boy
not rated yet Feb 10, 2019
The banning of DDT (to save some bird eggs) has resulted in the death of over 50 million Africans and Asians. Now, they're using stop-gap "solutions" like mosquito netting and pathetic attempts to control it.
humy
5 / 5 (1) Feb 10, 2019
The banning of DDT (to save some bird eggs) has resulted in the death of over 50 million Africans and Asians. Now, they're using stop-gap "solutions" like mosquito netting and pathetic attempts to control it.

There are many experts now suggesting that DDT should now be allowed to be SELECTIVELY used once again to control the malaria spreading mosquitoes, i.e. still NOT allowed to be used for other purposes.
Perhaps they are right; I don't know. But it is a dilemma choosing between the two evils.
Da Schneib
1 / 5 (1) Feb 10, 2019
The real question is what the DDT does to whatever eats the mosquitoes.

Ever been to Taiwan? There're no birds. It's eerie.

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.