JUN 17, 2021 6:05 AM PDT

Malaria Pathogen Caught Invading Red Blood Cells

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Mosquitoes are the world's deadliest animals (after humans) and they transmit malaria, which kills about 400,000 people every year. Malaria is caused by a parasite with a complex life cycle. Cutting-edge microscopy tools have now been used to capture malaria parasites in the act of infecting red blood cells. The real-time images were taken with a technique called lattice light-sheet microscopy, and have enabled researchers to learn more about the molecular basis of malaria infections. The findings have been reported in Nature Communications, and they may provide new insights into fighting malaria infections.

 

"Understanding in better detail exactly how the parasite invades red blood cells may reveal new ways to stop this stage of the parasite life cycle, potentially leading to much-needed new therapies," said study co-author Dr. Kelly Rogers, the head of WEHI's Centre for Dynamic Imaging.

"We used microscopy - specifically a state-of-the-art approach, lattice light-sheet microscopy (LLSM) - to follow the intricate cellular and molecular changes that occur when the malaria parasite invades red blood cells. We captured the first-ever high-resolution, real-time, and dynamic views of the parasite in action."

The work revealed many new details about the parasitic invasion, added study co-author Cindy Evelyn. "The videos we recorded showed the 'push and pull' interactions as the parasite landed on the red blood cell, and then entered the cell in an enclosed chamber - called a vacuole - where it grew and multiplied. There has long been contention in the field about whether the vacuole is derived from the parasite or the host cell. Our research resolved this question, revealing it was created from the red blood cell's membrane," she said.

Most therapies and vaccines for malaria are aimed at disrupting the binding between the malaria parasite and red blood cells.

"By visualizing these processes in more detail, our research may contribute in several ways to the development of new antimalarial therapies. For example, now that we know that the parasite vacuole relies on components of the red blood cell membrane, it might be possible to target these components with medicines to disrupt the parasite life cycle. This host-directed approach could be one way to bypass the malaria parasite's propensity to rapidly develop drug resistance," said Rogers.

"LLSM may also have applications for observing the specific steps of parasite invasion that are blocked by potential new drugs - an area we are now very interested in pursuing."

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI), Nature Communications

About the Author
BS
Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
FEB 20, 2022
Microbiology
An Intriguing Triad - Gut Fungus, Immunity, and Behavior
FEB 20, 2022
An Intriguing Triad - Gut Fungus, Immunity, and Behavior
Microbes in the gut have been shown to have a powerful influence on many aspects of our biology and well being. Scientis ...
MAR 01, 2022
Immunology
How an Emerging Pathogen Takes Control of Host Immunity
MAR 01, 2022
How an Emerging Pathogen Takes Control of Host Immunity
Bacteria called Legionella are commonly found in the environment, and they love to live in hot water. They can also caus ...
APR 02, 2022
Microbiology
Insight Into the Maturation of Giant Viruses
APR 02, 2022
Insight Into the Maturation of Giant Viruses
Typical viruses that we're familiar with need another organism to survive, and tend to have extremely small genomes. But ...
APR 13, 2022
Microbiology
Creating a foundation for change: A tangible strategy to fight AMR
APR 13, 2022
Creating a foundation for change: A tangible strategy to fight AMR
Apply the learnings of COVID to AMR, says coalition Tackling the deadly spectre of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) requir ...
APR 18, 2022
Microbiology
Earth's Oldest Life Forms May be Over 4 Billion Years Old!
APR 18, 2022
Earth's Oldest Life Forms May be Over 4 Billion Years Old!
We've learned a lot about life that came before us by studying fossils. The ancestry and evolution of ancient microbial ...
MAY 15, 2022
Immunology
Long-Term Antibiotics Raise the Risk of Death From a Systemic Fungal Infection
MAY 15, 2022
Long-Term Antibiotics Raise the Risk of Death From a Systemic Fungal Infection
Infections are common, and many are becoming increasingly hard for clinicians to treat. Antibiotics are often used to tr ...
Loading Comments...