Prof. Dr. Friedrich Frischknecht
Malaria has been and is still the most important parasitic infectious disease of humans. It is caused by unicellular parasites of the genus Plasmodium. During the blood meal of the Anopheles mosquito, Plasmodium sporozoites are injected into the skin. These sporozoites are highly motile cells and use a unique type of motility, called gliding to move within the tissue in order to reach the blood circulation, which carries them to the liver. In liver cells, the parasites replicate but without causing clinical signs of disease. However, disruption of growth in the liver can be used for the development of experimental vaccines. Once replication concludes, parasites enter the blood again where they infect red blood cells, in which they replicate further, ultimately leading to the disease. Replication follows an unusual process called schizogony, where nuclear and cell divisions are uncoupled. In the blood, the parasites also generate sexual forms that do not contribute to disease but can develop further inside the mosquito gut. The laboratories of Integrative Parasitology study the described processes using molecular biology, advanced microscopy and biophysical methods.