New genetic analyses suggest that malaria parasites possess their own circadian rhythms, and don’t depend on a host for an internal clock, researchers report in Science.
Figuring out how Plasmodium’s clock ticks may lead to ways to disrupt it, potentially adding to the growing arsenal of treatments for malaria (SN: 11/27/13). In 2018, the mosquito-borne illness sickened an estimated 228 million people worldwide and caused more than 400,000 deaths.
A malarial infection is a series of cyclical symptoms. Depending on the Plasmodium species involved, fever and chills return roughly every 24, 48 or 72 hours, thanks to the parasites’ synchronized reproduction within and destruction of a host’s red blood cells.
Researchers had long thought that the rhythmic nature of an infection was likely driven by a host’s circadian rhythms, says molecular parasitologist Filipa Rijo-Ferreira, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute associate at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.