Cellular and Applied Infection Biology
The tropical disease malaria is one of the most deadly infectious diseases worldwide with an estimated 198 million infections and 584.000 deaths annually, mainly in children under the age of five in Sub-Saharan Africa. The disease is caused by protozoan parasites of the genus Plasmodium. Among the five species that infect humans, Plasmodium falciparum is the most virulent agent. Malaria is transmitted to humans by the bite of an Anopheles mosquito and in the human body the pathogen invades and replicates in the red blood cells, destroys them and thus causes life-threatening conditions like fever, anemia and organ damage. Once the gametocytes, sexual precursor cells that form in human red blood cells are taken up during the blood meal of a female Anopheles mosquito, the malaria parasite undergoes sexual reproduction in the midgut of the insect, and this step is crucial for the transmission of the disease. Efforts to completely eradicate the disease have been hampered by the lack of an effective vaccine and the rapid emergences of drug-resistant parasites and mosquitoes. Therefore alternative strategies for combating the disease are urgently needed.
In our lab, we work with the deadliest species of the malaria parasite, P. falciparum. Our main focus is to investigate the cellular and molecular mechanisms of blood stage replication, gametocyte development and sexual reproduction, as well as the interactions between the parasites and their host cells. It is of particular interest for us to identify and characterize targets for novel types of vaccines and drugs. For our work, we use methods of molecular biology, biochemistry, immunohistology and genetics as well as cell culture techniques. All parasite work requires laboratories of biological safety level 2.
On our website, we invite you to browse and explore the research topics of our group.