Scientists in Glasgow are aiming to halt the spread of malaria by tackling malaria-causing parasites in their human hiding places.
“The parasite that causes malaria lodges in various tissue niches where it causes disease” says Professor Marti, a parasitologist at the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Parasitology (WCIP) at The University of Glasgow Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation.
Marti is working mainly with Plasmodium falciparum, the human parasite that caused over 435,000 malaria-related deaths a year in 2017.
Bone marrow is the headquarters for malaria infection and transmission
“The parasite travels via the blood and binds to the walls of blood vessels (vasculature). Discovering that the extravascular niche of the human bone marrow was also a hiding place for Plasmodium parasites was a surprise,” says Marti, lead author on the 2014 study that resulted in the discovery.
“Even more intriguing, we found that the bone marrow is also the major place where transmission stages mature until they are ready to be picked up by a mosquito.
“Knowing that the bone marrow is the headquarters for parasite growth and transmission opens up a whole new field for research,” says Marti. “Why does the parasite go to the bone marrow and how does it survive in this place without being attacked by the immune system?”