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Study of malaria parasite in patient blood finds distinct physiological states
Date:11/28/2007

sociated with a well-known form of parasite metabolism. The other groups, however, were very unusual, reflecting modes of parasite behavior that had never before been described.

One of these novel groups seems to signal parasites that are under extreme environmental stress. Importantly, this group shows a clear correlation with patient symptoms, including high fevers and elevated levels of inflammatory markers in the blood. "This is a remarkable result -- it suggests the malaria parasite can sense what is happening within its host and adjust its biology accordingly," said Daily. "That interaction signals a fundamental shift in the way we think about malaria, one which will hopefully lead to more effective treatments -- particularly for the most severe cases of the disease."

The other parasite group is associated with an alternative form of parasite metabolism, which relies on two specialized cellular compartments called the mitochondria and the apicoplast. That result is particularly surprising since mitochondria in P. falciparum were previously thought to be non-functional.

"For decades, our knowledge of the parasite has been driven solely by studies in cultured cells, not in humans," said Wirth. "Our work underscores the importance of studying the malaria parasite in its natural environment and will hopefully spark novel approaches to malaria drug discovery."


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Contact: Nicole Davis
ndavis@broad.mit.edu
Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
Source:Eurekalert

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