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Molecule Allows Malaria Parasite to Commandeer Red Blood Cells

Two groups of Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) scientists working independently have identified a critical enzyme that allows the malaria-causing parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, to take over and thrive in human red blood cells. The enzyme plasmepsin V (PMV) is a gatekeeper inside the malaria parasite that allows the parasite to export its own proteins into a human red blood cell. Once PMV opens the gate into the red blood cell, the parasite moves hundreds of the proteins into cell, which remodels it and, eventually, annihilates it. The new observations demonstrate that PMV is critical to survival of the malaria parasite and suggest that drugs targeting PMV may be able to kill the parasite before it develops inside red blood cells. This research was published by HHMI international research scholar Alan Cowman and HHMI investigator Daniel Goldberg in two articles in the February 4, 2010, issue of Nature.


Click here to watch  The Life Cycle of Malaria Part 1: Human Host
When a malaria-carrying mosquito bites a human host, the malaria parasite enters the bloodstream, multiplies in the liver cells, and is then released back into the bloodstream, where it infects and destroys red blood cells.


Click here to watch The Life Cycle of Malaria, Part 2: Mosquito Host
A mosquito becomes infected with malaria when it sucks the blood from an infected human. Once inside the mosquito, the parasites reproduce in the gut and accumulate in the salivary glands, ready to infect another human host with the next bite.

 
 

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