What is the exact way a malaria parasite enters the body to get infected and how does it prepare itself before it bites? Scientists have tried to answer this question, including Stefan Kappe, an expert on malaria at the Children’s Center for Global Research on Infectious Diseases in Seattle. Together with his team, the researcher published an article in Nature Communications on how malaria parasites reproduce more effectively in the organism to be infected.
After a mosquito bite, the Plasmodium parasite first penetrates the skin and then the blood vessels. Through it reaches the liver and here it infects thousands of cells, which then burst into the bloodstream and spread throughout the body, causing what is considered the blood phase of the disease.
Kappe and his colleagues have discovered, in particular, that the parasite, while still in the salivary glands of the mosquito and, therefore, not yet infected in the body, is beginning to prepare for his journey. He begins to produce the proteins needed to infect the liver until he is in a mosquito state. This “waiting” condition can last for days or even weeks, during which the parasite waits for an unpredictable event – a bite that can happen at any time.
Malaria continues to infect more than 300 million people each year and to claim the lives of some 435,000 people worldwide. This discovery can be very interesting to create possible methods to prevent liver infestation by parasites. The same proteins, for example, can be used as targets for new drugs and vaccines. At present, in fact, there is still no vaccine that can be considered effective against malaria.
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