Parasite Invasion Caught on Camera

For the first time, the tiny malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, has been caught on camera breaking and entering a red blood cell. High resolution 3D images reveal that once the three components of the parasite—nucleus (blue), other organelles (red), and the green pore the parasite brings with it and through which it invades (green)—have attached to the cell, a switch is triggered and the parasite is free to burrow through the cell’s membrane. From this point on, the parasite is unstoppable, multiplying within the cell until it breaks out of its host to invade fresh red blood cells. The new imaging technique will allow researchers to see the effects of novel drugs on this final stage in the parasite’s invasion strategy, researchers report online on this week in Cell Host & Microbe. They hope that this will help scientists develop better drugs to alleviate the suffering of the 400 million people who contract malaria each year.

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