The focus of our research

  Plasmodium falciparum Copyright: C. J. Ngwa

The tropical disease malaria is one of the most deadly infectious diseases worldwide with almost 200 million infections and an estimated half a million deaths annually, mainly in children under the age of five in Sub-Saharan Africa. The mosquito-borne disease is caused by protozoan parasites of the genus Plasmodium. Efforts to eradicate the disease have been hampered by the lack of an effective vaccine and the rapid emergences of drug-resistant parasites and mosquitoes. Therefore alternative strategies for combating the disease are urgently needed.

In our lab, we work with the deadliest species of the malaria parasite, P. falciparum. Our main focus is to investigate the cellular and molecular mechanisms during the blood stage replication of the parasite as well as during the sexual reproduction phase in the mosquito midgut. Here, our main expertise lies in the biology of the gametocytes, hence the sexual precursor cells that are essential for parasite transmission from the human to the mosquito. In a translational aspect of our research we test vaccines and compounds for their potential effect on P. falciparum blood stage replication and sexual development. Here, we work in collaboration with partners from chemistry and pharmacy.

Current projects in our laboratory deal with the following topics:

  • Translational regulation in the sexual stage parasites
  • Epigenetic control mechanisms during gametocyte development
  • Mechanisms of host cell egress by malaria parasites
  • Complement evasion during blood stage growth
  • Cell-cell interactions during fertilization
  • Testing of antimicrobials and vaccine candidates