Study finds key molecules involved in severe malaria
Diagram showing cell immunosuppression in severe malaria. See description.
P. falciparum induces the expression of RIFINs on the surface of infected erythrocytes. RIFINs target host inhibitory receptor LILRB1, thus facilitating escape from host immune system by inhibition of the immune response, which leads to severe malaria.

Nearly half of the world's population is at risk of malaria, according to the World Health Organization. In 2015, there were roughly 212 million new cases of the disease and an estimated 429,000 malaria-related deaths worldwide. However, there has been little progress in the development of a successful vaccine.

Among malaria parasites infecting humans, Plasmodium falciparum causes especially severe disease. Now, researchers funded by NHLBI have discovered the mechanism this parasite uses to suppress the host immune response, causing severe malaria.

The results of this study, published in Nature, could contribute to the development of effective vaccines and therapeutic drugs against malaria.