|Blood forms in red blood cells|
These are not of direct practical concern to man or his domestic animals. The interest of these parasites is that they are practical model organisms in the laboratory for the experimental study of human malaria.
In the laboratory the natural hosts have been replaced by a number of commercially available laboratory mouse strains, and the mosquito Anopheles stephensi, which is comparatively easily reared and maintained under defined laboratory conditions
Rodent parasites are recognised as valuable model organisms for the investigation of human malaria because they are similar in most essential aspects of morphology, physiology and life cycle and the manipulation of the complete lifecycle of these parasites, including mosquito infections, is simple and safe.
Like all malaria parasites of mammals, including the four human malaria parasites, P. berghei is transmitted by Anopheles mosquitoes and it infects the liver after being injected into the bloodstream by a bite of an infected female mosquito. After a short period (a few days) of development and multiplication, these parasites leave the liver and invade erythrocytes (red blood cells). The multiplication of the parasite in the blood causes the pathology such as anaemia and damage of essential organs of the host such as lungs, liver, spleen. P. berghei infections may also affect the brain and can be the cause of cerebral complications in laboratory mice. These symptoms are to a certain degree comparable to symptoms of cerebral malaria in patients infected with the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum.
P. berghei can be genetically manipulated in the laboratory using standard genetic engineering technologies. Consequently this parasite is often used for the analysis of the function of malaria genes using the technology of genetic modification.
A number of genetically modified P. berghei lines have been generated which express fluorescent reporter proteins such as Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) or bioluminescent reporters such as Luciferase. These transgenic parasites are important tools to study and visualize the parasites in the living host.
The use of this model malaria parasite has provided biologists and medical researchers with more insight into:
- The interactions of malaria parasites with the immune system.
- The process of infection of the liver by malaria parasites.
- The cause of severe pathology, such as cerebral complications in malaria patients.
- The infection of the mosquito and transmission of the parasite by the mosquito.
- Generation of genetically attenuated parasites (GAP) and their use to induce protective immune responses by vaccination with GAP
Moreover, P. berghei is used in research programs for development and screening of anti-malarial drugs and for the development of an effective vaccine against malaria.
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- Khan SM, Janse CJ, Kappe SH, Mikolajczak SA.(2012) Genetic engineering of attenuated malaria parasites for vaccination. Curr Opin Biotechnol. 23:908-916
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Plasmodium berghei.|
- General information about (the biology of) P. berghei
- Information about the genome and genes of P. berghei