[CUA Office of Public Affairs]

Getting Closer to Curing Malaria

16 June 1997


a.gif (1076 bytes) researcher at The Catholic University of America is part of a team that has discovered how the parasite that causes the most virulent form of malaria obtains nourishment in the human body, showing how some drugs can use this same "feeding system" system to cure the disease.

Pradip Rathod, an associate professor in the university's biology department collaborated with Kasturi Haldar's group from Stanford University for two years on this project. Their work is featured in the May 15 issue of Science.

"Millions of lives are at stake in the cat-and-mouse game between drug-resistant parasites and malaria scientists," said Rathod. "Recently, it has been a blow-out in favor of the parasite. Discoveries like this one gives us a fighting chance."

The most fatal form of malaria is caused by the parasite Plasmodium falciparum, carried by the female mosquitoes of the Annapholous type. When the parasite takes up residence in red blood cells, it is protected from the human immune system, but it still must import nutrients to stay alive and grow.

"Now we have shown that the parasite makes a complex network of tubules to bring in certain nutrients," Rathod said. "These channels and gateways are exploited by some antimalarial drugs to get to the parasite."

Malaria notes:

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Revised: 27 October 1997

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The Catholic University of America,
Office of Public Affairs.