Microbiology

Thermophilic Parasite

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Science  17 Sep 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5691, pp. 1681
DOI: 10.1126/science.305.5691.1681a

Malaria is responsible for the death of more than 1 million people each year. In the course of cycling between the mosquito vector and the human host, the malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum is exposed to high temperatures, up to 41°C in febrile patients, which are sufficient to send the microbe into heat shock.

Pavithra et al. examined the role of heat shock proteins in the development of the parasite within infected red blood cells by periodically incubating them at elevated temperatures, mimicking the recurrent febrile episodes typical of malarial infections. They find that elevated temperatures promote parasite development within the erythrocyte and that an inhibitor of one of the heat shock proteins actually disrupted parasite development. These findings support the idea that the parasite exploits the environmental cues provided by elevated body temperature to stage its development during infection, and it suggests that interventions that affect the malarial heat shock response may be useful in combating the disease. — SMH

J. Biol. Chem. 10.1074/jbc.M409165200 (2004).

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