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Lab Reports |

Targeting Malaria Parasites That Hide in Bone Marrow

Tracy Hampton, PhD
JAMA. 2014;312(9):882. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.10665.
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Immature forms of the parasite that causes malaria can sequester themselves outside the blood vessels in the bone marrow of infected patients to evade immune detection, researchers report (Joice R et al. Sci Transl Med. 2014;6[244]:244re5).

Harvard School of Public Health investigators and their colleagues analyzed tissues from autopsies of children who died of malaria to identify and characterize sites of Plasmodium falciparum accumulation.

The asexual stage of the parasite’s life cycle, when it multiplies profusely, occurs in red blood cells. But a small subset of parasites that develop into male and female sexual forms called gametocytes (which later mature and undergo fertilization after transmission to mosquitoes through the blood) reside in the bone marrow.

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Immature forms of the Plasmodium falciparum parasite (red), which causes malaria, can hide outside blood vessels in the bone marrow, thus evading detection by the host’s immune system.

Regina Joice/Matthias Marti/Harvard School of Public Health

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