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A research team of the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM) has identified a protein of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, which plays an important role in the growth of the pathogen in red blood cells. Another team from the BNITM has proven that infections with the African eye worm Loa loa cause significantly more adverse effects than previously thought. The results were published in the journals Cell Reports and The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
Using X-ray structural analysis and molecular genetics, Paul-Christian Burda's research group has succeeded in identifying a protein of the malaria pathogen and determining its function. The research team discovered that without the protein, the parasite becomes particularly sensitive and is unable to reproduce. The discovery helps to understand at the molecular level how the parasite ensures its survival within the red blood cells. This work was carried out at the Centre for Structural Systems Biology (CSSB) on the site of the German Electron Synchrotron (DESY) and is a collaboration between BNITM and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL-Hamburg).
The research team around Luzia Veletzky has for the first time investigated the exact extent of the disease burden of loiasis. Historically, this worm disease is considered harmless. The World Health Organization (WHO) therefore does not list it as a neglected tropical disease. This new study shows, however: Loa loa infections make people ill, lead to absenteeism and contribute to the fact that in many African countries the Sustainable Development Goals are not being achieved. Listing loiasis as a neglected tropical disease is therefore a necessary and long overdue step, Veletzky said.
Paul-Christian Burda et al., Structure-Based Identification and Functional Characterization of a Lipocalin in the Malaria Parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Cell Reports 31, (June 23, 2020). doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2020.107817
Luzia Veletzky et al., Burden of disease in Gabon caused by loiasis: a cross-sectional survey. The Lancet Infectious Diseases (June 22, 2020). doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(20)30256-5