RSB Directors Series Seminar: Blood and Guts: Malaria Parasite Entry and Transmission

Malaria remains one of the world’s deadliest parasitic diseases, affecting millions of people worldwide. Malaria parasites are transmitted from person to person through the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito. They are exquisitely adapted for survival within the human and mosquito host. Malaria parasites enter human red blood cells to grow and replicate. Within the mosquito, malaria parasites undergo fertilisation and further development into sporozoites which are transmitted to humans through a mosquito bite.

In this seminar, Professor Tham will cover her work on understanding mechanisms of malaria parasite entry and fertilisation and the development of novel interventions to stop infection and transmission of the malaria parasites. Wai-Hong will present an overview of host-pathogen interactions that govern entry of malaria parasites into human red blood cells. Professor Tham will focus on how Plasmodium vivax has hijacked Transferrin Receptor 1 to preferentially enter reticulocytes, which are young red blood cells. Their results establish a structural framework for understanding how P. vivax reticulocyte-binding protein engages Transferrin Receptor 1, which is an essential housekeeping protein for iron uptake, and the molecular mechanism of inhibitory antibodies that block parasite entry, providing important information for the design of novel vaccine candidates against P. vivax. I will conclude with our new projects on using nanobodies to block malaria parasite transmission in mosquitoes.