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Malaria parasites ‘walk through walls’ to infect humans

Malaria parasites ‘walk through walls’ to infect humans

Image: Asian tiger mosquito

Researchers at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, assisted by ARC Discovery Project funding, have identified proteins that enable deadly malaria parasites to ‘walk through cell walls’—a superpower that was revealed using the Institute’s first insectary to grow human malaria parasites. The research has identified two parasite proteins that are the key to this superpower. The proteins could be targeted to develop much-needed antimalarial drugs or vaccines.

ARC-funded researcher, Dr Justin Boddey, along with Dr Sara Erickson and Ms Annie Yang led a team investigating how the deadly malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum travels from the site of a mosquito bite to invade human liver cells, the critical first step in malaria infection. The research confirmed the deadly malaria parasite had the ability to ‘walk through cell walls’ as it sought out liver cells where it could hide and multiply.

Malaria causes more than 650,000 deaths each year, predominantly in children and pregnant women, and there is an urgent need for new malaria vaccines and treatments in an effort to eradicate the disease. Dr Boddey said pinpointing these proteins was a good avenue for new therapies.

Media issued by the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.

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