Scientists studying how the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum multiplies and escapes from an infected blood cell and spreads throughout the body have discovered a potential way to stop the process, according to a recent study published by scientists from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
By studying the parasites multiplying in sickle cells, which are more resistant than typical cells to rupture, the scientists had more time to observe the steps in the process (Glushakova S et al. Curr Biol. 2010;20:1117-1121). They found that prior to the rupture of the blood cell, the vacuole containing the multiplying parasites swells while the erythrocyte shrinks, and that the blood cell membrane becomes porous just before it ruptures. Moreover, they found that sealing the membrane with the compound poloxamine prevents rupture, suggesting a potential strategy for experimental malaria therapies.
Kuehn BM. Trapping Malaria. JAMA. 2010;304(4):398. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.971