5. Zoonosis

Zoonotic infections of Plasmodium spp. and Babesia spp.

We are interested in identifying the molecular basis of the tropism of Plasmodium spp. parasites for different primate species, to explore the potential for cross-species transmission to humans, and define the molecular changes that facilitated the emergence of the extant human malaria parasites.

We have established the zoonotic primate malaria parasite, P. knowlesi, as an in vitro model to study red blood cell invasion, that possesses powerful genetics and cell biology, that we are now able to exploit for detailed imaging of parasite invasion and forward genetic approaches.  

We have initiated studies of the biology of Babesia spp., that are evolutionarily closely related to Plasmodium spp..  Traditionally an important veterinary disease, babesiosis has recently been recognized as an emerging source of zoonotic infection, with infections resulting from tick transmission.  Several Babesia spp. can be robustly cultured in vitro and we have established genetic methods for their functional analysis using genetics and chemical genetics.

Papers of interest:

Host Cell Tropism and Adaptation of Blood-Stage Malaria Parasites: Challenges for Malaria Elimination. (Review)

Lim C, Dankwa S, Paul AS, Duraisingh MT. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2017 Nov 1;7(11).

Extensive Shared Chemosensitivity between Malaria and Babesiosis Blood-Stage Parasites.

Paul AS, Moreira CK, Elsworth B, Allred DR, Duraisingh MT.

Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2016 Jul 22;60(8):5059-63. doi: 10.1128/AAC.00928-16.

Ancient human sialic acid variant restricts an emerging zoonotic malaria parasite.

Dankwa S, Lim C, Bei AK, Jiang RH, Abshire JR, Patel SD, Goldberg JM, Moreno Y, Kono M, Niles JC, Duraisingh MT. Nat Commun. 2016 Apr 4;7:11187.

Expansion of host cellular niche can drive adaptation of a zoonotic malaria parasite to humans.

Lim C, Hansen E, DeSimone TM, Moreno Y, Junker K, Bei A, Brugnara C, Buckee CO, Duraisingh MT. Nat Commun. 2013;4:1638. doi: 10.1038/ncomms2612.