Washington: An Indian origin researcher has found that a form of malaria, which is common in India, Southeast Asia and South America, attacks human red blood cells by clamping down on the cells with a pair of proteins.
New study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis provides details that will help scientists design better vaccines and drug treatments for the strain, Plasmodium vivax.
"More people live at risk of infection by this strain of malaria than any other," senior author Niraj Tolia, PhD, assistant professor of molecular microbiology and of biochemistry and molecular biophysics, said.
"We now are using what we have learned to create vaccines tailored to stop the infectious process by preventing the parasite from attaching to red blood cells," the researcher said.
Earlier studies had suggested that one P. vivax protein binds to one protein on the surface of red blood cells . Tolia's new study reveals that the binding is a two-step process that involves two copies of a parasite protein coming together like tongs around two copies of a host protein.
Tolia also found evidence that people with immunity to P. vivax have developed naturally occurring antibodies that attach to a key part of the parasite's binding protein, preventing infection.
The study was published in PLOS Pathogens.