We are investigating how parasites such as malaria manage to hide from the immune system, spread within the body and emerge to infect others.
Every year up to 500 million people around the world are infected with Plasmodium falciparum – the parasite that causes malaria – and around 1 million people will die from the disease.
Infection with another parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, is less dangerous but more widespread, infecting up to a third of the world’s population. The parasite is able to hide from the immune system, lurking in a dormant state for many years. But when the immune system changes – during pregnancy or as AIDS develops, for example – then it can re-emerge and cause serious health problems.
We want to find out how these parasites manage to infect human cells, how they evade the immune system, how they move through the body, and how they emerge to infect other people. We are using a range of lab techniques to identify and study the genes and molecules in parasites and in human cells, so that we can build a detailed picture of how they interact together during infection.
By knowing more about the intricate details of parasite infection, we hope to find new approaches for tackling these devastating and widespread diseases.