News of the WeekMalaria

Old Movie Spawns a New Discovery

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Science  05 Jan 2001:
Vol. 291, Issue 5501, pp. 24-25
DOI: 10.1126/science.10.1126/SCIENCE.291.5501.24

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A 10-year-old video fragment featuring a human liver cell and a malaria parasite is revealing new information about the parasite's life cycle. The movie catches a so-called sporozoite (a stage in the life cycle of the malaria-causing Plasmodium parasite) entering a human liver cell, apparently jostling its way right through, then exiting at the cell's other end and moving away as if nothing had happened--unexpected behavior for a sporozoite. A series of recent experiments reported on page 141 of this issue demonstrates that this behavior is not an artifact, as was originally believed, but rather that sporozoites may travel through as many as four other liver cells before settling down in one.