Research from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, led by Professor Alan Cowman, has shown that the malaria parasite cannot penetrate a human red blood cell when key proteins are deleted.
Approximately half of the world’s population is at risk of contracting malaria each year, with more than 200 million people infected. Malaria kills up to 450,000 people each year, predominantly children under the age of five.
Existing antimalarial drugs are becoming less effective as the parasite develops resistance to treatments, making the search for new targets critical.
Professor Cowman and his team have discovered that three proteins known as Rh5, Ripr and CyRPA together form a complex that plays a vital role in the ability of the Plasmodium falciparum parasite to invade healthy human blood cells.
In research that effectively removed or 'knocked out' the Ripr or CyRPA proteins, the malaria parasite was unable to invade the red blood cell, stopping malaria infection. Their findings have just been published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe.
“These findings hold great promise for understanding the function of these proteins and their development as vaccines” Professor Cowman said.
“Developing new vaccines for malaria is a global research priority,” he said.
The malaria parasite has developed resistance to most of the antimalarial drugs on the market and new treatments are urgently needed.
This work was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), the Victorian State Government Operational Infrastructure Support Program.
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