Malaria Elimination

The 'P. falciparum' Dry Season Reservoir: A Long Game of Hide and Seek

13.00 h
Room 12, Faculty of Medicine, University of Barcelona
(Casanova, 143) Barcelona
Silvia Portugal (Universitäts Klinikum Heidelberg)

The dry season represents a major challenge for Plasmodium falciparum in many regions of the globe, where water availability limits mosquitoes to only part of the year. In Mali, P. falciparum parasites remain within many children for the five- to six-month dry season, while no clinical malaria cases occur, waiting for transmission in the ensuing wet season.

Silvia Portugal, researcher at Universitäts Klinikum Heidelberg, and her team work to understand which parasite and host’s features favor the silent carriage of persistent P. falciparum parasitaemias that bridge two transmission seasons.

To answer this broad question they first profiled the transcriptome of parasites maintained subclinical in children during the dry season and those from parasites of children presenting with their first clinical malaria episode in the ensuing transmission season. They identified many differences between the two.

How many of these transcriptional differences are imposed by the host immune response; how these affect parasite replication, cytoadhesion or virulence; as well as the parasite’s capacity to develop sexual forms are currently being investigated. Data they are generating is increasing the understanding of how P. falciparum maintains long term asexual replication in the absence of mosquito vectors and how the interaction of P. falciparum with its host and vector may be influenced by environmental conditions.

Silvia Portugal will offer an open seminar on this issue on April 24.