Parasites that live in red cells have rather ingenious ways of gaining entry into these cells, thus escaping the dangers of the host immune system.
Research in the Laboratory of Blood-Borne Parasites focuses on the molecular mechanisms of red cell invasion of two Apicomplexan pathogens that invade the same human host cell, the red blood cell: Plasmodium falciparum, that causes malaria and Babesia divergens that is the cause of babesiosis.
Babesia is fast becoming an important pathogen because of two factors:
- It is recognized as a zoonotic parasite with humans acquiring infections from mammalian animal reservoirs.
- It represents a potential threat to the blood supply for transfusions since asymptomatic infections in humans are common and the spread of parasite via blood transfusions has been reported.
With extensive research data available in malaria, we look to extract analogous information on the invasion process of B. divergens and facilitate a molecular comparison of the process between these two parasites, one that is specific to humans and the other that is zoonotic.
- Study the pathways of invasion that support this zoonosis and learn how zoonotic pathogens have evolved to transcend the species barrier to infect man.
- Study the parallels in the invasion patterns of Plasmodium and Babesia into RBC's and develop B.divergens as a model to study RBC invasion in apicomplexans.
- Preliminary data shows a significant overlap in structural and functional aspects of the invasion machinery between these two hemoparasites, including the use of glycophorins as host receptors, the presence of invasion ligand homologs like AMA-1 and the use of subtilisin like proteases for successful invasion.
Our research will contribute to a fundamental understanding of the biology of invasion which is the critical step in the life cycle of both Plasmodium and Babesia. The inhibition of RBC invasion by these parasites would prevent infection and consequently disease. Therefore, identification and characterization of the molecules, including ligand-receptor interactions and the proteases that participate in this step, is critical for the development of diagnostic tools, new drugs or vaccines against malaria and babesiosis.
- Rosalynn Ord, Ph.D. Senior Research Fellow Send Email | View Full Bio
- Marilis Rodriguez, BS Senior Research Assistant Send Email | View Full Bio
- Manpreet Singh, MS Research Assistant Send Email | View Full Bio
- Jeny R. Cursino dos Santos, Ph.D. Senior Research Fellow Send Email | View Full Bio
- Andy Alhassan, Ph.D. Senior Research Fellow Send Email | View Full Bio