Scientists discover malaria's entryway into human body

Scientists find further insights into malaria parasite entryway.
Scientists find further insights into malaria parasite entryway. | Courtesy of
A team of researchers from the Broad Institute and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health recently said they discovered a crucial protein within the surface of a human red blood cell that provides an entryway for malaria parasites to invade the body.

The protein, named CD55, is the key point where malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum can attach to the red blood cell’s surface. This enables malaria to settle into the body and attack the immune system.

“Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasites have evolved several key-like molecules to enter into human red blood cells through different door-like host receptors,” Harvard Chan John LaPorte Given Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases Manoj Duraisingh said. “Hence, if one red blood cell door is blocked, the parasite finds another way to enter. We have now identified an essential host factor which when removed prevents all parasite strains from entering red blood cells.” Duraisingh said. Duraisingh is senior author of the study that was posted online Thursday in Science.

This discovery may lead to better options to treat malaria.   

“The discovery of CD55 as an essential host factor for P. falciparum raises the intriguing possibility of host-directed therapeutics for malaria, as is used in HIV,” lead author and Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Harvard Chan Research Fellow Elizabeth Egan said. Egan also is an instructor in pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital. “CD55 also gives us a hook with which to search for new parasite proteins important for invasion, which could serve as vaccine targets,”  Egan said.