Saturday, September 27, 2008


60 species of Anopheles mosquitos can transmit malaria. There are four forms of Human Malaria each caused by a different species of parasite, the most dangerous being Plasmodium Falciparum.

During the incubation period of malaria, the protozoa grow within cells in the liver then invade the red blood cells. The parasite starts to consume the haemoglobin and enlarges until it fills the cell when it breaks out and invades another cell.

The parasite hides from the immune system by depositing one of 60 different proteins on the surface of infected red blood cells. This is only the start of the changes made to the cell by the parasite. The red blood cell has no nucleus and no transport proteins to move nutrients and other chemicals around so the parasite has to do the work. Another parasite protein transfers to the cell surface helping it stick to parts of the body which stops it circulating and being destroyed by the spleen.

In one of Nature's twists, the iron in the blood cell is toxic to the parasite so it has to convert the haem into a pigment, haemozoin which it stores in its stomach. If anti-malaria drugs could disrupt this process, the parasite would die. Monash researchers are using synchrotron light to see the chemical changes that convert haem to haemozoin inside the parasite.

At the Eureka Awards for 2008, Associate Professor Brian Cooke from Microbiology received a Science to Art Award, which recognises his studies of fatal malaria cases and a resulting image of the surface of a human red blood cell infected with a malaria parasite.

Associate Professor Cooke said, "I hope that my small contribution may one day make a big difference to millions of people burdened by unnecessary illness. Simple and effective communication of our research is paramount, particularly in the present era of new, sophisticated technologies and merging disciplines. Science through art and graphic visualisation is a tantalising way to capture all imaginations."

School of Physics scientific photographer Steven Morton, who came equal 2nd in last year's Eureka Awards, produced this image, Cellular Renovations. He manipulated and pseudo-coloured the image after the National University of Singapore provided the raw imaging data gained by atomic force microscopy.

The knob-like bumps are part of the renovations that the malaria parasite makes to the red blood cell after it moves in during infection. The NHMRC-funded work at Monash University aims to understand the molecular nature of these changes in red blood cells that make malaria so severe.


Ann O'Dyne said...

Bill Gates has just given a huge great swad of cash to fight malaria.
My friend's son - a rich white geologist - has had it more than once from digging about in his job's third world.

Great photo though.

Jayne said...

Dad had malaria when in New guinea in WW2....and many recurrences for years after he returned home, although the govt refused to acknowledge servicemen could possibly have it post-1945.

River said...

Looks a bit like tomato based spaghetti sauce just coming to the boil.
60 types of mosquitos carrying malaria? I thought there was only one....

Brian Hughes said...

"The knob-like bumps are part of the renovations..."

It's too early in the morning to even go there...

That's So Pants said...

Hi Coppie

Glad I didn't see this before I went to India. I didn't bother with the tablets - just had plenty of G&Ts.



JahTeh said...

It doesn't even have to be an expensive vaccine. Mosquito nets dipped in a pesticide that lasts 6 months (doesn't wash out) and covering open water storage with a thin film of oil cuts down mozzies. The worrying thing is if children don't get one dose of malaria they don't build an immunity but it's bad luck if they get the one that affects the brain.

Jayne, when did the government ever acknowledge anything about soldiers' health after a war? The US is still saying depleted uranium doesn't lead to cancers or other afflictions in soldiers who fought in the first Gulf War but the men are still getting sick.

River, the little vectors are everywhere. When they stick the little suckers in for a blood feed, they swoosh some saliva into the flesh first and that's when the parasite shoots in. Isn't nature wonderful?

Swine! Do they have mozzies in Lancashire? I think it's midges you have, non?

JahTeh said...

Poor Pants, mozzies are one thing you haven't had to worry about in our lovely Western District. I read your blog and I could feel the cold creeping into my bones. Blessed be a warm house.

Brian Hughes said...


We have horseflies, which leave you with a nasty itchy swelling that can last for weeks. The cows can give you a nasty lick if they catch you by surprise as well.

River said...

"Isn't Nature wonderful?"
Here is what I read once somewhere about Nature:-
Nature is lovely, but man, as a species, moved inside eventually, because Nature is also scratchy, bitey, stingy, hot, cold, damp, sandy and hungry.
Nature can eat you.
Nature WANTS to eat you.

Mother Nature is beautiful, but she's a bitch to live with.

JahTeh said...

Horseflies? Cow licks?

River is right, Mother Nature is a bitch to live with.