Associate Professor Bruce Russell is a co-author of a paper recently published in the Journal Science that identifies a critical pathway for Vivax malaria infection, providing insight that may be useful for future vaccine development.
Plasmodium vivax is the parasite responsible for the world's most widely distributed and difficult to treat form of malaria. In a highly-cited 2015 study published in the journal Blood, the same research team identified that the parasite has a strict preference for invasion of reticulocytes (very young blood cells that are formed in the bone marrow). The parasite progresses through several stages in order to fully invade the human body, however it is the blood stage infection that is the major cause of all clinical symptoms.
Furthermore, it was demonstrated that the binding site of the parasite specifically prefers cells with high levels of a particular protein, which is lost as the blood cells mature. The level of binding has been shown to be directly correlated with with the level of this protein on the blood cell surface. The authors demonstrated that this invasion pathway is critical for full P. vivax infection, and so the therapeutic prevention of parasite entry into red blood cells in bone marrow could alleviate the disease.
Transferrin receptor 1 is a reticulocyte-specific receptor for Plasmodium vivax
Jakub Gruszczyk, Usheer Kanjee, Li-Jin Chan, Sebastien Menant, Benoit Malleret, Nicholas T. Y. Lim, Cristoph Q. Schmidt, Yee-Foong Mok, Kai-Min Lin, Richard D. Pearson, Gabriel Rangel, Brian J. Smith, Melissa J. Call, Michael P. Weekes, Michael D. W. Griffin, James M. Murphy, Jonathan Abraham, Kanlaya Sriprawat, Maria J. Menezes, Marcelo U. Ferreira, Bruce Russell, Laurent Renia, Manoj T. Duraisingh, Wai-Hong Tham
Science 359, 48-55 (2018)