The malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum caused the deaths of approximately 400,000 people in 2015, most of whom were children. P. falciparum multiplies inside our red blood cells and bursts out every 48 hours causing periodic fever. How P. falciparum causes severe malaria is complex but involves loss of red blood cells, obstruction of blood vessels in critical organs and development of an inappropriate immune response. Resistance is emerging to our best anti-malarial drugs so new drugs are urgently needed. A promising strategy is to target proteins that are found in P. falciparum but not humans. P. falciparum employs novel chromatin proteins to regulate gene expression in its pared back genome. We are investigating some of these proteins as possible drug targets. P. falciparum also employs a diverse armoury of variant surface proteins to hide from immunity, but only some of these proteins cause severe disease and possibly they could be used in a life-saving vaccine. We are identifying which of these surface proteins are expressed in severe disease and how widely they are recognised by antibodies from patients recovering, or protected from, severe malaria.
BSc honours, Masters and PhD projects are available in these areas.
For further information contact Dr Michael Duffy