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Researchers Targeting Ancient Algal DNA In Malaria Parasites

NPR’s health blog “Shots” describes how scientists are targeting biological structures called apicoplasts in malaria parasites in developing new medications to fight the infection. Without apicoplasts, which are not common in most species, malaria parasites die, so a drug developed to target them would theoretically kill the parasites, the blog notes.

Apicoplasts have their own DNA, which is separate from the DNA of the parasite and is closely related to algal DNA. “‘It’s actually thought that the malaria parasite incorporated an algal cell early on, and that the thing we call the apicoplast is the remnant of the algal cell,’ says Sean Prigge at the Johns Hopkins Malaria Institute,” the blog notes. “So a remnant of algae may help bring down one of the world’s most deadly parasites,” according to “Shots” (Palca, 8/31).