Basic Malaria Research

We acquire new functional and mechanistic insight into processes linked to the essential biology of malaria blood stage parasites. These parasite forms are responsible for all malaria-related morbidity and mortality as well as for the transmission of parasites between humans via the mosquito vector. We place particular emphasis on

(1) investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying parasite-induced red blood cell remodeling, through which infected red blood cells adopt pathogenic traits;

(2) understanding the transcriptional and epigenetic mechanisms responsible for antigenic variation and sexual conversion, which facilitate chronic blood infection and parasite transmission, respectively; and

(3) the identification and characterization of parasite ligands required for red blood cell invasion and their cognate invasion-inhibitory antibodies.

We further engage in elucidating mechanisms of action of anti-malarial drugs and in identifying immunological response signatures associated with native and adaptive anti-malarial immunity in vivo.

Scanning electron micrographs of an erythrocyte and of erythrocytes infected with P. falciparum
An immunofluorescence staining of a gametocyte - the sexual form of P. falciparum
3D-structure of the protein CyRPA

Elucidation of the Dynamic Interaction Network of Exported Proteins in P. falciparum

In this projects we study the interaction network of exported proteins which is of crucial importance for the export of virulence factors to the surface of the infected host cells and for other modifications allowing the parasite’s survival in its host cell. We use state-of-the-art molecular-genetic and cell-biological methods and produce a substantial number of transgenic parasites. In these parasites we study the function of exported proteins in order to identify those interactions that are needed to elicit the most important modifications.


MalCommit - Understanding Sexual Commitment and Early Differentiation of Malaria Transmission Stages

The project aims to understand the processes responsible for the differentiation of asexual malaria blood stage parasites into sexual forms. The anticipated results may open up new avenues for the development of transmission-blocking drugs and vaccines.


Role of the Plasmodim Falciparum Protein CyRPA in Parasite Invasion of Erythrocytes

A reverse vaccinology approach has led us to the identification of the P. falciparum Cysteine Rich Protective Antigen (PfCyRPA). The protein forms together with PfRH5 and PfRipr a multiprotein complex crucial for erythrocyte invasion. We have determined the crystal structure of PfCyRPA and are using this and parasite inhibitory and non-inhibitory anti-CyRPA monoclonal antibodies as a basis for analyzing its function.

Walker T.M et al. A cluster of multidrug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis among patients arriving in Europe from the Horn of Africa: a molecular epidemiological study. Lancet. 2018(in press). DOI: 10.1016/S1473-3099(18)30004-5

Cretton S et al. A new antifungal and antiprotozoal bibenzyl derivative from Gavilea lutea. Nat Prod Res. 2018;32(6):695-701. DOI: 10.1080/14786419.2017.1338287

Nguyen T.T.N, Schindler C, Dien T.M, Probst-Hensch N, Perez L, Künzli N. Acute effects of ambient air pollution on lower respiratory infections in Hanoi children: an eight-year time series study. Environ Int. 2018;110:139-148. DOI: 10.1016/j.envint.2017.10.024

Müller-Rompa S.E.K et al. An approach to the asthma-protective farm effect by geocoding: good farms and better farms. Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2018(in press). DOI: 10.1111/pai.12861

Maia M.F et al. Attractive toxic sugar baits for controlling mosquitoes: a qualitative study in Bagamoyo, Tanzania. Malar J. 2018;17(1):22. DOI: 10.1186/s12936-018-2171-2

Späth A, Zemp E, Merten S, Dratva J. Baby-friendly hospital designation has a sustained impact on continued breastfeeding. Matern Child Nutr. 2018;14(1). DOI: 10.1111/mcn.12497

Wiedemar N et al. Beyond immune escape: a variant surface glycoprotein causes suramin resistance in Trypanosoma brucei. Mol Microbiol. 2018;107(1):57-67. DOI: 10.1111/mmi.13854

Jäger F.N, Bechir M, Harouna M, Moto D.D, Utzinger J. Challenges and opportunities for healthcare workers in a rural district of Chad. BMC Health Serv Res. 2018;18:7. DOI: 10.1186/s12913-017-2799-6

Arku R.E et al. Elevated blood pressure and household solid fuel use in premenopausal women: analysis of 12 Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) from 10 countries. Environ Res. 2018;160:499-505. DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2017.10.026

Cole-Hunter T et al. Estimated effects of air pollution and space-time-activity on cardiopulmonary outcomes in healthy adults: a repeated measures study. Environ Int. 2018;111:247-259. DOI: 10.1016/j.envint.2017.11.024