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Einstein researchers find 'key' to unlocking world's deadliest malaria parasite

Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have leveraged the results of their research into tuberculosis to craft a tool for unlocking the secrets of another of the world's leading infectious killers--malaria.

These findings, published in the August issue of Nature Methods, "should substantially speed up research efforts to bring malaria under control," says Dr. David Fidock, senior author of the paper and an associate professor of microbiology & immunology at Einstein.

Malaria is caused by a single-celled parasite, Plasmodium, which is transmitted through the bite of the Anopheles mosquito. The disease kills an estimated 1.2 million people every year.

The Einstein scientists focused on the most deadly Plasmodium strain--P. falciparum--which is proving increasingly resistant to treatment. Their research has led to the first efficient technique for inserting any gene of interest into the P. falciparum genome to gain biological information that could lead to more effective treatments.

"This opens up a whole new window into the genetic manipulation of this lethal parasite," says Dr. William Jacobs, who is a Howard Hughes investigator and professor of molecular genetics and microbiology & immunology at Einstein and a major author of the Nature Methods paper. "Malaria researchers finally have an efficient way to shuffle genes into P. falciparum, which should lead to valuable information about the parasite's virulence, how it's transmitted from mosquito to humans and how it develops resistance to antimalarial drugs."

The research effort was conducted primarily by Louis Nkrumah, an MD/PhD student at Einstein. Central to this effort was a bacterial phage (virus) that Dr. Jacobs isolated from soil in his backyard in the Bronx and dubbed the "Bronx Bomber." It infects Mycobacterium smegmatis, a bacterial species closely related to Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which causes tuberculosis. Dr
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Contact: Karen Gardner
kgardner@aecom.yu.edu
718-430-3101
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
25-Jul-2006


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