28 July 2014
Plasmodium falciparum – one of the five Plasmodium parasites that cause malaria – spend the majority of their lives in human red blood cells (where they are seen pictured here in green/purple). During this time, they produce over 450 proteins, allowing them to rebuild the surface of the host cell and avoid being discovered by our immune cells. These proteins also help the parasites take in nutrients and increase their virulence. But transporting these building blocks within the host cell relies on an enzyme called plasmepsin V (PMV) and now researchers have developed a compound called WEHI-916, which prevents PMV from working properly. As soon as PMV is no longer active, the malaria parasites die. As PMV is such an important enzyme, targeting it with antimalarial drugs could prevent infections from the outset, by stopping the development and release of Plasmodium ’s crucial proteins.
Written by Katie Panteli