Researchers Discover How Malaria Evades Immune System

Researchers at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute have discovered how malaria parasites evade the human immune system on their way to infecting people. Their discovery was published in Nature in late 2005.

Essentially, the parasite has a number of cloaking mechanisms, and keeps most of them in reserve. As it encounters resistance from the human immune system the parasite is capable of tailoring its cloaking to the immune system. The parasite has dozens of genes designed to get past the immune system, and what the researchers found was that as one gene was activated, that also trigger the suppression of the others. In this way, the malaria parasite is able to try one method after another to infect the host, and reduce the risk that the host might quickly develop an immunity against most or all of the parasite’s cloaking methods.

As HHMI researcher Alan Cowman put it in a press release announcing the discovery,

It’s like a leopard being able to change its spots. New forms come up, and the immune system beats them down again. Because of this a lot of people think you need five years of constant exposure to malaria in its different disguises to gain immunity.

Unfortunately too many people, especially children, die long before they can develop immunities to the malaria parasite’s numerous tricks. Even among people who develop immunity, that immunity can be quickly lost if the individual is not consistently exposed to malaria parasites.

This sort of research could one day lead to a treatment for malaria that might, for example, defeat this mechanism and allow for those exposed to malaria to quickly develop immune responses to all of its cloaking mechanisms.


How malaria dupes immune system. BBC, December 29, 2005.

Scientists Lift Malaria’s Cloak of Invisibility. Press Release, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, December 28, 2005.

10 thoughts on “Researchers Discover How Malaria Evades Immune System”

  1. Very informative article. Malaria is a vector-borne disease which had a greater impact on humans than any other infectious agent. In most cases, a human being gets malaria through the bite of an infected Anopheles female mosquito. In spite of several preventive as well as anti-malarial medications, residual drugs, and the usage of protective clothing and mosquito nets, one of the best options to prevent malaria would be use of an effective natural mosquito repellent.

  2. Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, the United States had an increase of 13 Million people from 2004 to 2009. That’s only 5 years. In 25 years that will be 65 Million people. In 50 years that will be 130 Million people. In 100 years that will be 260 Million people. In 500 years that will be 1 Billion 300 Million people. Add the 300 Million people we already have and you come up with a grand total of 1 Billion 600 Million people in the United States by the year 2509. Does the word “CANNIBALISM” mean anything? So save your future generations from a miserable and horrible end. Stop creating and if you have children tell them when they grow up not to create. I am 100% sure your future generations will appreciate not being here to face that situation. Spread this message to the entire world. + Jesus

  3. 1915 – 1.8 Billion people
    2010 – 6.8 Billion people
    Past 95 years – 5 Billion people
    Next 500 years – 32 Billion people or more
    Problems – Poverty, starvation, global warming, hole in the ozone layer, crime, pollution and land destruction
    Solution to problems – “STOP CREATING BABIES”!!!

  4. overpopulation is more dangerous than neclear warfare. It is an issue that nobody wants to address since the religious business is allways in interferance and comes up with hypotetic retoric sadly to say.

  5. Mexico as an example : Not that long ago the population of mexico was 40 milllion. The doubled in the last 20 years to 80 million and now they are 110 milllion and that is not counting the illegal hordes that invated el norte, and claiming they have a right to be there since they are now their.

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