New study shows malaria capable of growth and replication in spleen

New research that shows that the malaria parasite can survive within certain types of white blood cells located within the spleen has the potential to have major effects on the development of new malaria vaccines and treatments.

Traditionally, scientists believed that the malaria parasite’s growth and replication was limited to occurring in the liver and red blood cells alone, according to

A new study conducted over a five year period by the Queensland Institute of Medical Research and Griffith University’s Institute for Glycomics, however, has demonstrated that a type of white blood cell is capable of protecting the parasite from the human immune system.

"This new research demonstrates that these unusual white blood cells called plasmacytoid dendritic cells, can act like a ‘Trojan horse’ in shielding the parasite from the immune attack which would otherwise remove it from the human body," professor Michael Good, a senior researcher from the Institute for Glycomics, said, reports. "It goes a long way to explain why the malaria parasite is able to survive for long periods and produce recurring infections in people."

The new discovery, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may open a new approach to creating a vaccine for the disease, which has long remained elusive. New vaccine strategies that target the parasite while in the spleen are set to be tested in human clinical trials within the next 12 months.