Infectious Diseases

Parasitic Diseases

Several research Groups investigate the molecular and immunological correlates of parasitic infection. In Cape Town, the Cytokines and Disease Group (Brombacher) aims at elucidating the fundamental immunological mechanisms underlying human diseases such as tuberculosis, African trypanosomiasis, leishmaniasis and helminthic infections (including bilharzia), in addition to chronic diseases like allergic asthma and colitis. In New Delhi, fi ve Groups investigate the malaria parasite. The Malaria Biology (Malhotra) and the Parasite Cell Biology (Mohmmed) Groups search for proteins, encoded by the malaria parasite, which could become targets for the development of innovative antimalarial drugs. The Parasite Biology Group (Tuteja) studies the plasmodium proteins involved in the maintenance of parasite genomic integrity, while the Malaria Drug Discovery Group (Sahal) investigates the antimalarial properties of molecules from marine organisms, medicinal plants, cyanobacteria and endophytic fungi from India and other sources in Africa and Asia. The Structural Parasitology Group (Sharma) aims at defining the principles that govern biological functions of key malaria proteins through a structural approach, particularly focusing on the protein translational machinery of the parasite. The Transcriptional Regulation Group (Bhavesh) has a broad interest in elucidating the molecular interactions between protein and RNA, which it addresses by a combination of NMR spectroscopy and crystallography.

Highlights

The Cytokines and Disease Group in Cape Town made a major advance in understanding how Interleukin-4 signaling controls the different responses to infection with Leishmania and Schistosoma, which has important implications for the development of novel therapeutics against these parasitic infections (Hurdayal et al., 2017, PNAS, 114, 8430). In a very nice collaboration between the Malaria Biology Group and the Recombinant Gene Products Group in New Delhi they identified how the malaria parasite gains entry into erythrocytes through interaction with cyclophilin B (Prakash et al., 2017 Nat. Commun. 8, 1548). This offers exciting potential for the development of novel inhibitors of parasite invasion.