A Novel Strategy to Block Malaria Transmission

Students of Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, Divya Beri, Shweta Chaubey, Aparna Sudhakar won the award for the research project Understanding the Design Principles of Protein Nanosensor to Combat Multidrug Resistant Enterobacteriaceae. They carried their research work under guidance of Prof. Utpal Tatu.

Malaria is one of the most prevalent infectious diseases in India. Malaria parasites have a complex life cycle with two forms in the human host; asexual forms that cause the clinical manifestations and sexual forms (gametocytes) which are transmissible forms of the parasite leading to its spread from a diseased host to a healthy host via the vector. Most drugs that are administered target only asexual forms and are in fact, reported to enhance the number of gametocytes; thus, creating a silent reservoir of parasites which potentiates further transmission. Recent reports have suggested an upsurge of asymptomatic malaria which does not manifest in clinical illness but represents individuals that can sustain transmission. Due to very low number of transmissible gametocytes found in clinical cases/asymptomatic malaria, incapability of malaria rapid detection kits (RDT) to differentiate between asexual and sexual stages and induction of clinical gametocytes with most front-line antimalarial drugs, control and elimination of malaria are nearly impossible. Given the essentiality of this stage for parasite survival and propagation, our group demonstrated that redox stress created by the parasite’s own growth is responsible for the commitment to gametocytes (Chaubey et al, Journal of Biological Chemistry, 2014).

Our study, for the first time, shows a physiological metabolite homocysteine linked to gametocytogenesis in in vitro cultures as well as in the mouse model of cerebral malaria (Beri et al, Nature Scientific Reports. 2017). We propose the application of this finding to develop transmission blocking molecules. Molecules targeting homocysteine may prove as attractive therapeutic interventions in blocking commitment to sexual stages. Its administration, along with currently marketed drugs against asexual stages, will ensure complete abrogation of the parasite.

The Hon’ble President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind awarded the Gandhian Young Technological Innovation (BIRAC – GYTI) Award to Divya Beri, Shweta Chaubey, Aparna Sudhakar, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, at the GYTI 2018 Awards function held at Rashtrapati Bhawan on March 19, 2018.

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