News from ISGlobal
A research team at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) has developed a system to induce massive sexual conversion of the P. falciparum malaria parasite in vitro. This technique will prove instrumental to gain a deeper understanding of the sexual conversion process and design new tools to block malaria transmission.
Plasmodium falciparum is the most lethal of the five malaria parasites that infect humans. It has a complex lifecycle whereby the asexual stage in the blood is responsible for disease symptoms but only the sexual stages (called gametocytes) can infect mosquitoes. Therefore, human to vector transmission requires that some asexual parasites differentiate into gametocytes, a process called sexual conversion. "Understanding how sexual conversion is regulated will provide valuable clues for blocking disease transmission", says Alfred Cortés, ICREA researcher at ISGlobal, whose team has been working on this process for several years. However, studying the initial stages of sexual conversion in the laboratory is not easy because only a very small proportion of parasites undergo conversion, and those that do cannot be easily distinguished from the other asexual parasites until several days later.
Llorà-Batlle O, Michel-Todó L, Witmer K et al. Conditional expression of PfAP2-G for controlled massive sexual conversion in Plasmodium falciparum. Science Advances. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaz5057