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A key protein is discovered as essential for malaria parasite transmission to mosquitos
Date:2/23/2014

Two teams have independently discovered that a single regulatory protein acts as the master genetic switch that triggers the development of male and female sexual forms (termed gametocytes) of the malaria parasite, solving a long-standing mystery in parasite biology with important implications for human health. The protein, AP2-G, is necessary for activating a set of genes that initiate the development of gametocytes -- the only forms that are infectious to mosquitos. The research also gives important clues for identifying the underlying mechanisms that control this developmental fate, determining whether or not a malaria parasite will be able to transmit the disease.

Even today, there is still a risk that malaria could be reintroduced into the United States and Europe, where malaria was largely eliminated by the 1950s. However, nearly half of the world's population -- 3.3 billion people -- currently live in 106 countries and territories that are at risk of malaria transmission, according to the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The World Health Organization estimates that there were 207 million cases of malaria and 627,000 deaths worldwide in 2012. Approximately 77 percent of those killed were children under the age of 5.

Malaria is caused by single-celled Plasmodium parasites. To survive and reproduce, these parasites have a rather complex lifecycle that involves three major stages. First, after a person is bitten by a parasite-carrying mosquito there is an initial infection in the liver, followed by the long-lasting red blood cell stage where the clinical symptoms of the malaria disease occur, and finally the mosquito stage, which is required to transmit the parasites to other people. All three stages are essential for the parasite to fully complete its developmental lifecycle. Surprisingly, the major blood stage form of the parasite that causes the terrible cycles of intense fevers associated with malaria in humans
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Contact: Barbara K. Kennedy
science@psu.edu
814-863-4682
Penn State
Source:Eurekalert  

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