First images of malaria's attack on cells seen

Researchers from Australia have managed to capture pictures of a microscopic malaria parasite as it is invading a human red blood cell.

It is the first time such pictures have been taken and it is believed that they will provide a deeper understanding of the parasite’s dangerous behavior and what might be done to stop it, according to

Every year, at least 10 percent of the world’s population contracts malaria and at least one million people, mostly pregnant women and children, die from the mosquito-borne illness.

According to the research team’s head, Dr. Jake Baum of the Melbourne-based Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, the team used a mixture of conventional and super resolution microscopy. The technology, which was used for the first time in Australia, was based at the University of Technology Sydney, reports.

The team’s first work, conducted last year, found a way to isolate the invasion, which happens at the nanometric scale and too quickly for the human eye.

“This is not the first study to see invasion but it is definitely the first study to be able to see it in all its glory,” Dr. Baum said, according to “We can now resolve those two blurry dots into the kind of beautiful structure the parasite forms as it goes in… It provides us with a platform to understand how the parasite works and to understand how an antibody against malaria, which is a goal for vaccine development, could be achieved.”

Baum said that he and his team have found that the parasite carries a never before seen “window” that it attaches to the blood cell to facilitate its entrance. Once inside, the virus multiplies quickly until the cell bursts open.

“A golden goal of malaria researchers is the development of a vaccine that would protect you from disease but still allow you to develop an immune response,” Baum said, reports. “An effective vaccine would have such immeasurable benefits for humanity.”