Immune evasion strategies of malaria parasites

Immune evasion strategies of malaria parasites

Project details

The human complement system is the front line defense mechanism against invading pathogens. Self-tissue is protected from indiscriminate complement attack by complement regulators that modulate the complement cascade. 

The co-existence of humans and microbes throughout evolution has produced ingenious molecular mechanisms by which microorganisms escape complement attack. The acquisition of host complement regulators is by far the most widely used strategy for complement evasion among diverse infectious agents such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites.

This project involves identification of complement regulators that are recruited by malaria parasites, and how these prevent killing. The student will investigate the role of parasite surface proteins in recruiting human complement regulators. The results have broad implications in understanding basic parasite biology and immunological responses to malaria infections.


About our research group

Malaria is one of the most widespread parasitic diseases in the world with more than 40 per cent of humans under the risk of contracting this devastating disease. Human malaria is caused by five species of Plasmodium parasites, of which Plasmodium falciparum represents the most common and deadliest form.

We have been working to understand how P. falciparum causes disease and invades the human red blood cell so that we can use this pivotal information to develop a vaccine. Our research seeks a deeper understanding of the molecular mechanisms utilised by malaria parasites to invade red blood cells, and of parasite evasion strategies to circumvent human immune responses.



Professor Alan Cowman

Professor Alan Cowman in the lab
Deputy Director and Joint Division Head

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