Malaria parasites cause our red blood cells to become bendier, helping them to enter and cause infection, a new study has found. Malaria is caused by a family of parasites that are carried by mosquitoes.
Once parasites enter the body through a mosquito bite, they multiply in the liver before invading red blood cells where they cause all symptoms of malaria disease. The parasites have molecular motors that allow them to push their way into cells, and this was thought to be all that was required for invasion.
Now, researchers at Imperial College London in the UK have found that the parasites also change the properties of red cells in a way that helps them achieve cell entry.