Investigating protein expression and localization in microsporidian parasites during infection

Dr. Ross Waller’s earlier research into the malaria parasite has contributed important information leading to a new array of drugs to treat the disease. Now he is studying microsporidia, a group of intracellular parasites that infect humans and animals. In particular, microsporidia infect immune-compromised individuals, causing encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines). The parasites have a remarkable method for invading host cells. This small, simple spore releases a harpoon-like tube that pierces the host cell. The parasite contents are then injected into the host through this tube, establishing the infection. Ross is identifying specific genes and proteins involved in the infection process, using genome sequences that have identified all the genes in two microsporidia. He is looking at the way proteins are prepared prior to and during the initial stages of infection. The results may provide new ways to combat these organisms.