Discovery of novel malaria parasite behaviour offers new target for treatment

Malaria, a blood borne disease caused by single cell parasites, remains a major global public health issue with millions of cases, and nearly half a million deaths every year.

Image of platelets floating around a body

The new discovery in the parasite’s biology is revealed across a set of three studies led by the University of Glasgow’s Wellcome Centre for Molecular Parasitology within the Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation.

Researchers have discovered that malaria parasites can occupy sites outside the bloodstream, specifically in the bone marrow and spleen where red blood cells are formed. The studies show that this is the major niche for the development of malaria transmission stages and a significant reservoir for the parasite’s replicative stages.

Professor James Brewer, Chair in Basic Immunology in the Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, noted: “These findings will also allow us to potentially find new drug targets for the disease, redefine what drugs have to achieve in terms of parasite killing and find new ways to fight back against the malaria parasite.”

First published: 26 June 2018