Nav: Home

Parasites from patients with cerebral malaria stick preferentially in their brains

January 11, 2019

A team at LSTM with their collaborators in Malawi and Denmark have provided, for the first time, evidence which links the ability of red blood cells infected with the malaria parasite to bind to the cells lining the blood vessels of the brain, with the clinical syndrome cerebral malaria.

Cerebral malaria is a life-threatening complication of infection with the parasite Plasmodium falciparum. This complication is characterised by the parasite infected red blood cells accumulating in the brain and occurs in 1-2% of the over 200 million reported cases of malaria.

First author on the paper, published recently in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine, Dr Janet Storm, explained: "Very little is known about why this serious complication occurs in some children but not others. However, it is understood that infected red blood cells, presenting with a protein called P. falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1) on its surface bind to host cells lining the blood vessels in many organs, including the brain."

A property of the PfEMP1 protein is its variability, which results in changes in the ability of infected red blood cells to bind to host cells in the brain. This has been suggested as the reason we only see cerebral malaria in some infected individuals, and if the infected red blood cells do not bind in the brain cerebral malaria cannot occur.

In their lab in at MLW in Malawi, the team utilised a flow-based adhesion assays to study the binding of infected red blood cells from children with cerebral or uncomplicated malaria to cells derived from human brain blood vessels. The team also used molecular techniques to study the PfEMP1 expressed by the infected red blood cells.

Results showed that binding of infected red blood cells from patients with cerebral malaria to the brain-derived cells was higher than that seen from patients with uncomplicated malaria. This suggests that in most cases P. falciparum avoids targeting the brain and that cerebral malaria only occurs when red blood cells express a subset of PfEMP1 proteins with particular adhesion phenotypes which allow for efficient binding to the cerebral blood vessels. Knowing that binding in the brain is a key feature of cerebral malaria allows researchers to focus their attention on developing new interventions for severe disease based on the interaction between infected red blood cells and the host cells lining the blood vessels in the brain.
-end-


Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine

Related Malaria Articles:

Could there be a 'social vaccine' for malaria?
Malaria is a global killer and a world health concern.
Transgenic plants against malaria
Scientists have discovered a gene that allows to double the production of artemisinin in the Artemisia annua plant.
Fighting malaria through metabolism
EPFL scientists have fully modeled the metabolism of the deadliest malaria parasite.
Should we commit to eradicate malaria worldwide?
Should we commit to eradicate malaria worldwide, asks a debate article published by The BMJ today?
Investigational malaria vaccine shows considerable protection in adults in malaria season
An investigational malaria vaccine given intravenously was well-tolerated and protected a significant proportion of healthy adults against infection with Plasmodium falciparum malaria -- the deadliest form of the disease -- for the duration of the malaria season, according to new findings published in the Feb.
Why malaria mosquitoes like people with malaria
Malaria mosquitoes prefer to feed -- and feed more -- on blood from people infected with malaria.
Malaria superbugs threaten global malaria control
A lineage of multidrug resistant P. falciparum malaria superbugs has widely spread and is now established in parts of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, causing high treatment failure rates for the main falciparum malaria medicines, artemisinin combination therapies (ACTs), according to a study published today in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
Considering cattle could help eliminate malaria in India
The goal of eliminating malaria in countries like India could be more achievable if mosquito-control efforts take into account the relationship between mosquitoes and cattle, according to an international team of researchers.
Seasonal malaria chemoprevention in Senegalese children lowers overall malaria burden
Giving preventive antimalarial drugs to children up to age 10 during active malaria season reduced the cases of malaria in that age group and lowered the malaria incidence in adults, according to a randomized trial carried out in Senegal and published in PLOS Medicine by researchers from the Université Cheikh Anta Diop, Senegal, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UK, and other collaborators.
How malaria fools our immune system
OIST researchers reconstruct the 3-D structure of a malaria protein in combination with human antibodies.

Related Malaria Reading:

The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years
by Sonia Shah (Author)

The Making of a Tropical Disease: A Short History of Malaria (Johns Hopkins Biographies of Disease)
by Randall M. Packard (Author)

Malaria: Biology in the Era of Eradication (Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine)
by Dyann Wirth (Editor), Pedro L. Alonso (Editor)

The Malaria Project: The U.S. Government's Secret Mission to Find a Miracle Cure
by Berkley

Humanity's Burden: A Global History of Malaria (Studies in Environment and History)
by James L.A. Webb Jr. (Author)

Quinine: Malaria and the Quest for a Cure That Changed the World
by Fiammetta Rocco (Author)

Malaria Dreams: An African Adventure
by Stuart Stevens (Author)

Mosquito Soldiers: Malaria, Yellow Fever, and the Course of the American Civil War
by Andrew McIlwaine Bell (Author)

First Comes Love, then Comes Malaria: How a Peace Corps Poster Boy Won My Heart and a Third World Adventure Changed My Life
by Eve Brown-Waite (Author)

The Historical Ecology of Malaria in Ethiopia: Deposing the Spirits (Ecology & History)
by James C. McCann (Author)

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Approaching With Kindness
We often forget to say the words "thank you." But can those two words change how you — and those around you — look at the world? This hour, TED speakers on the power of gratitude and appreciation. Guests include author AJ Jacobs, author and former baseball player Mike Robbins, Dr. Laura Trice, Professor of Management Christine Porath, and former Danish politician Özlem Cekic.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#509 Anisogamy: The Beginning of Male and Female
This week we discuss how the sperm and egg came to be, and how a difference of reproductive interest has led to sexual conflict in bed bugs. We'll be speaking with Dr. Geoff Parker, an evolutionary biologist credited with developing a theory to explain the evolution of two sexes, about anisogamy, sexual reproduction through the fusion of two different gametes: the egg and the sperm. Then we'll speak with Dr. Roberto Pereira, research scientist in urban entomology at the University of Florida, about traumatic insemination in bed bugs.