Collaboration Between Israeli Researchers and Irish Colleagues Find Breakthrough That Can Outmaneuver Malaria Parasites

Malaria claims hundreds of thousands of lives each year, and yet there has not been sufficient understanding of the parasite that causes it to develop an effective cure or vaccine. The Weizmann Institute of Science and its colleagues at Trinity College in Dublin, among other partners, have announced that there has finally been a breakthrough. Previous research revealed that the parasite has a communication mechanism that it uses to determine if it should invade its new host, but the Israeli-led team’s new study, published in the journal, Nature Communications, contributed that the parasite also uses the mechanism to deliver a false decoy message to distract the human host’s immune system. As the person’s monocyte cells react to guard against the decoy invader, appropriately named STING (STimulator of INterferon Genes), malaria carriers have clearance to multiply unchecked, and the disease thus spreads. Initial research shows that if STING can be effectively repressed, the parasite won’t have the go-ahead to spread. These findings are very promising, and further research into successfully suppressing the protein could ultimately help beat the lethal illness.