New discovery in malaria research

23 May 2019 | Back to News, Publications and Annual Reports

Together with researchers from the US, BPRC has made an important discovery in the quest to find new ways of treating malaria. They've found a protein that is key to the growth of malaria parasites, offering new possibilities for developing tests for drug research.

One of the major malaria parasites that infect humans can survive in the liver in a dormant state. This parasite can wake up at any time and trigger the disease. Drugs are urgently needed to treat this nasty form of malaria, but it's extremely difficult to study this parasite because it's virtually inaccessible. For this reason, we still know very little about this parasite form.

Special protein detected

Here's what we do know: the dormant parasite form only triggers malaria in humans and primates. So at BPRC, we've been using the primate parasite as a model – with outstanding results! We've already unravelled the genetic properties of the parasite (First new breakthrough in malaria research in thirty years and Dormant malaria parasites become less active as they age). Now – after digging through a gigantic mountain of information – we've detected a special protein, in collaboration with US researchers.

New possibilities for tests

The protein is special because it is produced in the parasite when the parasite starts to grow. It's not visible in the dormant form. This allows us to make a clear distinction between dormant and growing parasites, so we can clearly see which parasites are actually dormant, and which are growing. This is important, because we want to be able to accurately determine whether or not a drug is active against the dormant parasite. So this discovery has given rise to new possibilities for developing tests for drug research.

Every time we make a discovery like this, it brings us another step closer to developing a drug that will work against this parasite form.

Read the report on our research online here.