Prof. Dr. Friedrich Frischknecht

Welcome to the Department of Infectious Diseases, Integrative Parasitology

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.