British Researchers Discover Receptor Necessary For Malaria Parasite To Invade Red Blood Cells, Offering New Vaccine Hope

Researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the U.K. have “made a critical discovery about the way the most deadly species of malaria parasite invades human red blood cells,” Reuters reports. They “pinpointed a single receptor for a protein that is critical for the parasite to gain entry into red blood cells before multiplying and spreading,” according to a study published in Nature on Wednesday (Kelland, 11/9). “The researchers hope the finding will help them design a new malaria vaccine,” which “has been ‘a difficult nut to crack,’ Gavin Wright of the [Sanger Institute] said at a press briefing about the study in London on Monday,” ScienceNOW notes (Reardon, 11/9).

“One of the challenges for researchers has been that, although several red blood cell receptors have previously been identified, none is essential for entry,” SciDev.Net writes, adding, “The new work has found a single receptor that is absolutely required by the parasite to invade” (Ottery, 11/9). Julian Rayner of the malaria program at the Sanger Institute and Eleanor Riley of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine “cautioned that developing a vaccine would not be plain sailing, given how rapidly malaria parasites can evolve and evade human interventions,” the Guardian writes (Jha, 11/9).