NIH Researchers’ Findings About Malaria Parasites In Bloodstream Could Lead To Development Of New Drugs

NIH researchers have “identified two previously unknown steps in the spread of the malaria parasite in the bloodstream” and found a way to interfere with one stage of the process, which could lead to the development of new malaria drugs, United Press International reports (6/10). The study was published online in Current Biology, according to an NIH press release (6/10).

“Joshua Zimmerberg, the study’s lead author, said a malaria parasite reproduces inside a sac within a red blood cell, filling the sac until the new parasites burst out of their host cell. Many researchers say the pressure of the growing parasites inside the sac increases until it bursts,” UPI writes. “But Zimmerberg said the study uncovered a more complex process. Several minutes before rupturing, the parasite-filled sac swells and the remainder of the cell shrinks, he said. Moreover, seconds before the infected cell bursts, the cell membrane turns porous, like a leaky plastic bag.” He said, “It is not the simple explosion people thought it was … [rather it’s] an elegantly choreographed, regulated process.”

The researchers found a way to basically seal the membrane of a blood cell infected with malaria parasites, which could prevent their release, according to UPI. “Identifying new stages in the release of parasites provides new leads in the search for anti-malaria drugs,” Zimmerberg said (6/10).