Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Malaria parasites use camouflage to trick immune defences of pregnant women

12.07.2011
Researchers from Rigshospitalet – Copenhagen University Hospital – and the University of Copenhagen have discovered why malaria parasites are able to hide from the immune defences of expectant mothers, allowing the parasite to attack the placenta. The discovery is an important part of the efforts researchers are making to understand this frequently fatal disease and to develop a vaccine.

Staff member at CMP. Photo: Lars Hviid"We have found one likely explanation for the length of time it takes for the expectant mother's immune defences to discover the infection in the placenta," says Lea Barfod, MSc, who is working with Professor Lars Hviid at the Centre for Medical Parasitology, University of Copenhagen.

"The parasites are able to assume a camouflage that prevents their recognition by the immune system antibodies which would otherwise combat them. So although the immune system has all the weapons it needs to fight the infection of the placenta, these weapons are ineffectual simply because the enemy is hard to spot. Ironically the camouflage also consists of antibodies, but of a type that does not help to fight infection."

The malaria parasite at war with the immune system

One human being in twelve is infected with malaria. That means 500 million people are carrying the tiny parasite, and it kills a million of them a year. The disease costs so many lives because the parasite constantly outmanoeuvres the human immune system. It starts by hiding in the red blood cells. The immune system does not bother with these as the spleen usually filters defective blood cells.

To avoid this filter, the parasite ejects a protein hook which attaches to the inner wall of the blood vessel, and even if the immune system antibodies destroy one such hook, the parasite has more than sixty in its arsenal. One of them has evolved specially to attach to the placenta. While the war is being waged the parasite propagates and infects more and more red blood cells, which are normally used for transporting nutrients and oxygen around the body.

Fighting from house to house

"In an advanced version of hide-and-seek the parasites keep looking for new ways of preventing the antibodies from recognising them. It is a kind of urban guerrilla war in which the fighting is conducted from house to house," says Lars Hviid.

"One example is the ability of the parasites to hide in the placenta. The first time an African woman conceives her placenta provides a new opportunity for the parasite to hide: a new house, so to speak, and in a way that prevents discovery by the immune system. It takes time for the immune defences to react to the new threat, and meanwhile the camouflaged parasite harms the woman and her unborn child."

The researchers are now going to study whether the malaria parasite also uses its camouflage at other stages of an infection.

"Perhaps it is not only the parasites in the placenta that are capable of hiding like this," Lars Hviid says.

"It takes the body a surprisingly long time to develop protection from Malaria, and perhaps the trick we have just discovered is part of the explanation. It is important for us to find out if this is the case in order to help us to understand malaria in general, but also to help us in our efforts to develop a vaccination. We have plenty of work to be going on with," Lars Hviid concludes.

Lea Barfod and Lars Hviid's discovery has just been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

Professor Lars Hviid | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ku.dk

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Millions through license revenues
27.04.2017 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

nachricht New High-Performance Center Translational Medical Engineering
26.04.2017 | Fraunhofer ITEM

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>