The UoH team found that the malaria parasite, Plasmodium, behaves differently in the human body in the presence and absence of fever. This adaptability helps it evade the immune system and thrive. One of the proteins identified as falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1) is presented by the parasite in 90 different ways, but it only uses one variant at a time, so the body fails not to recognize and develop immunity.
The UoH team led by Professor Mrinal Bhattacharya found a correlation between fever induced by malaria and the antigenic variation of malaria parasites. The PfEMP1 protein is the most predominant molecular determinant of antigenic variation in the malaria parasite. There could be up to 90 variants of this protein and only one protein is expressed at a time, which is random.
The researchers said the protein variants do not live for multiple generations because malaria parasites keep switching from one form of protein to another, so the human host fails to establish a robust antibody response. against variant proteins. “The study revealed how the parasites manipulate the expression of malaria proteins on the surface of infected red blood cells in response to fever. We found that exposure to febrile temperature modulates the expression of virulence genes that could impact the chronicity of the infection, ”the researchers said. Targeting parasitic proteins in the response to thermal shock during fever is likely to limit the antigenic variation of the parasites and prevent malaria. The study was published in the journal Molecular Microbiology. The other members of the team are Wahida Tabassum, Dr Shalu Varunan. Dr Sunanda Bhattacharyya from the Department of Biotechnology and Bioinformatics, School of Life Sciences, UoH, collaborated.