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Stopping malaria-producing parasites in their tracks

Malaria represents a global public health concern yet detailed knowledge of the life cycle of the parasites responsible is missing. Scientists are applying novel genetic methods for insight leading to targeted treatments.
Stopping malaria-producing parasites in their tracks
A vaccine against malaria remains elusive and the effectiveness of existing treatments is diminishing as resistance increases. Challenges related to the development of novel therapies or preventions are largely due to a lack of understanding of the complex life cycle of the parasitic Plasmodium genus (containing several species that cause malaria), including its relationship with its host.

Plasmodium falciparum (P. falciparum) causes the most dangerous form of malaria (falciparum malaria). Scientists initiated the EU-funded project GENETICHTS REVEAL PF to apply a novel high-throughput genetic screening method to produce large-scale mutants of P. falciparum. The focus was on genes responsible for asexual growth, sexual differentiation (transmission form) and virulence through interaction with the host immune system to develop targeted therapies.

To date, scientists have made important progress in verifying the feasibility of the methods. They have induced mutagenesis in P. falciparum and are currently working on focused ways to increase mutant yield. Simultaneously, they are developing fluorescent probes that will enable sorting of mutants as they are produced, as well as assays for phenotypic defects to determine the possible role of the protein for which the mutated gene codes.

GENETICHTS REVEAL PF outcomes are expected to represent a major breakthrough in development of new treatments and possibly even a vaccine for the most dangerous form of malaria. In addition, the mutant library will be an important resource for researchers in the field. Overall, the project will make a significant contribution to the global fight against malaria.

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