Research into the most commonly occurring and difficult to treat strain of malaria, vivax malaria, is possible using the human form of the parasite only under extremely limited circumstances. While a closely related primate malaria parasite has thus far provided a solution to this problem, that system does require the use of primates. Hopefully, this is about to change.
Thanks to a global collaborative partnership which includes BPRC researchers, an effective system for culturing the blood-borne non-human primate malaria parasite has now been developed.
We're learning more all the time
The blood-borne malaria parasites are transmitted from mosquitoes to another host. Here, they first develop in the liver before entering the bloodstream once more and causing their host to fall ill. We previously developed an effective culture system for the liver form of the primate malaria parasite. Over time, that research also led us to learn more about this type of malaria. So long as we lacked a system for culturing the blood-borne parasite, this research remained dependent on primates as the animals provided researchers with a means (via mosquito transmission) to infect liver cells. This is potentially about to change.
Research to rely less on primates
The breakthrough is that an effective system for culturing the blood-borne non-human primate malaria parasite has now been developed. Thanks to this new system, research into this form of the parasite will be less dependent on primates. If researchers are able to simulate the entire life cycle of the parasite in a culture system, their work will become much easier. It will also allow us to drastically reduce the use of primates. One question still remaining is whether researchers will also be able to use this culture system to transmit the malaria parasite – via the mosquito – to liver cells: the place where the parasites lie dormant before re-entering the blood stream.
This work was published in the renowned journal Nature Communications.