7 February 2019

Richard Bartfai, theme Infectious diseases and global health, and Clemens Kocken (BPRC) received 675,000 euros from ZonMw to uncover the molecular mechanisms underlying dormancy of malaria parasites, a major obstacle to efficient treatment of Plasmodium vivax malaria.

Plasmodium vivax causes severe morbidity in Asia and South-America and is regarded as a major challenge to malaria elimination. The biggest obstacle in fighting P. vivax is the presence of dormant parasites. These, so called, hypnozoites can stay dormant in the liver without any symptoms for weeks to years, survive treatment of blood stage infection and reactivate causing malaria without renewed exposure to infected mosquitos. In order to better target hypnozoites, it is important to unravel the mechanisms behind their dormancy and reactivation. Hypnozoites, however, have long been inaccessible for experimental investigations and hence represent a major knowledge gap in our understanding of the parasite’s life cycle, which in turn hinders drug development.

Therefore, in this project, Clemens Kocken and Richard Bartfai will form a powerful partnership to combine state-of-the-art genomic technologies and a unique transgenic model system to understand mechanisms that drive liver stage parasites into dormancy or dictate their reactivation. These insights may prove essential to further vivax malaria control and elimination by paving the way for new and innovative approaches to target this critical human pathogen.

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