All symptoms of malaria disease are associated with the asexual blood stages of development, involving cycles of red blood cell (RBC) invasion and egress by the Plasmodium spp. merozoite. Merozoite invasion is rapid and is actively powered by a parasite actomyosin motor. The current accepted model for actomyosin force generation envisages arrays of parasite myosins, pushing against short actin filaments connected to the external milieu that drive the merozoite forwards into the RBC.
red blood cell
We present two conundra in the biology of intraerythrocytic malaria parasite: how an apparent open parasitophorous duct provide direct access of only a select set of serum proteins to the parasitophorous vacuole, and how proteases mediate membrane lysis to allow merozoite egress.
Malaria has had a major effect on the human genome, with many protective polymorphisms-such as the sickle-cell trait-having been selected to high frequencies in malaria-endemic regions1,2. The blood group variant Dantu provides 74% protection against all forms of severe malaria in homozygous individuals3-5, a similar degree of protection to that afforded by the sickle-cell trait and considerably greater than that offered by the best malaria vaccine.
The human spleen is an immune sentinel and controls red blood cell (RBC) quality. By mechanically retaining subsets of infected RBCs, the spleen may reduce the pace at which the parasite biomass increases before the adaptive immune response operates. Conversely, the spleen may contribute to malaria pathogenesis, particularly anemia that is associated with splenomegaly.
The growth of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum in human blood causes all the symptoms of malaria. To proliferate, non-motile parasites must have access to susceptible red blood cells, which they invade using pairs of parasite ligands and host receptors that define invasion pathways. Parasites can switch invasion pathways, and while this flexibility is thought to facilitate immune evasion, it may also reflect the heterogeneity of red blood cell surfaces within and between hosts.
For Plasmodium falciparum related malaria (B50), one of the outstanding host factors for the development of severe disease is the ABO blood group of malaria patients, where blood group O reduces the probability of severe disease as compared to individuals of groups A, B, or AB.
Multiple red blood cell (RBC) variants appear to offer protection against the most severe forms of Plasmodium falciparum malaria. Associations between these variants and uncomplicated malaria are less clear.