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Scientists identify the process by which the malaria parasite imports sugar, a potential target for inhibiting parasitic development.
The process by which sugar is imported into the malaria parasite has been detailed in a new report in the Nature journal. The uptake of glucose, which gives the parasite energy and is vital to its lifecycle, is regulated by a transport protein, called PfHT1. Researchers took this protein and examined it on a molecular level, looking at its crystalline structure, to better understand the sugar-binding site of the protein. The long-term hope is to develop a drug that can block the transportation of sugar in the malaria parasite, thus stopping its development. And, with such a molecular-level understanding of the target protein, scientists may be able to specify drugs more accurately, reducing the risk of side effects in the human host. The malaria parasite is more flexible, though, having multiple potential sources of energy. It is therefore possible that, through selective advantage, the parasites could evolve to prefer another sugar as their primary energy source.
Image Credits: CDC/ James Gathany 
Scientific Advisor: Katharine Collins, Radboud University Medical Centre