WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2016

Researchers encourage new path for malaria research

Researchers expressed reservations on Thursday about the success of therapeutic malaria strategies using a common protein in parasites, AMA1, by demonstrating that parasites can develop normally even without the protein.

Scientists from the Institut Pasteur and the Institut Cochin in Paris and the University of Glasgow demonstrated that Plasmodium falciparum and Toxoplasma gondii can survive and multiply in infected cells without the action of AMA1. For many years, scientists conducted research on improving malaria treatments that blocked the AMA1 protein, which was thought to be indispensable for entry into cells. The new discovery could impact the search for malaria and toxoplasmosis treatments.

Using reverse genetics, the researchers generated parasites completely lacking AMA1. The scientists found that even in the absence of AMA1, P. falciparum was capable of invading host cells at all human stages. The team found the same was true of one of the two human stages of T. gondii.

The researchers did find that the ability of both parasites to attach to the host cells, a step that precedes cellular invasion, was affected by the removal of AMA1.

The findings allowed the scientists to deduce that AMA1 is not used by the parasites for cellular invasion, but the protein is implicated in the adhesion to host cells.

The research team recommended methods for optimizing research targeting AMA1 with a view to improving treatments. For instance, the scientists suggest that therapeutic strategies could be based on blocking other proteins complementary to AMA1.