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Targeting innate immunity in malaria
Date:8/4/2011

WORCESTER, Mass. Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School have uncovered a novel DNA-sensing pathway important to the triggering of an innate immune response for malaria. Activation of this pathway appears to stimulate production of an overabundance of type-1 interferon by the immune system that may contribute to inflammation and fever in malaria patients and could play a part in susceptibility for the most common and lethal form of malaria known as plasmodium falciparum. Published online by Immunity this week, the study offers the first evidence that recognition of parasite DNA by the innate immune system may play a key role in malaria.

Caused by a parasite transmitted through mosquitoes, malaria is often characterized by successive waves of high fevers, which contribute to the lethalness of the disease and cause many of its complications. The disease initially incubates in liver cells where it can gestate and multiple for up to 30 days. In the second stage, the parasite infects blood cells where it continues to multiply. Invisible to the immune system while inside the blood cells, the malaria parasite periodically bursts through to infect new cells and further multiply. Once the malaria parasite is outside of the blood cells, the immune system is able to detect its presence and attempts to mount a defensive response. It is this response and the corresponding inflammation that accounts for the periodic and deadly waves of fever experienced by malaria patients.

"Traditionally, immunologists have investigated how the adaptive immune system responds to foreign bodies such as virus, bacteria and parasites. It's only over the last 10 to 15 years that we've begun to understand the complex and important role the innate immune system plays in responding to all different classes of pathogens," said Katherine A. Fitzgerald, PhD, associate professor of medicine at UMMS and one of the lead authors of the Immunity study. "In this stu
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Contact: Jim Fessenden
james.fessenden@umassmed.edu
508-856-2000
University of Massachusetts Medical School
Source:Eurekalert

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