Babesia divergens is an intra-erythrocytic parasite that causes malaria-like symptoms in infected people. As the erythrocyte provides the parasite with the infra-structure to grow and multiply, any perturbation to the cell should impact parasite viability. Support for this comes from the multitude of studies that have shown that the sickle trait has in fact been selected because of the protection it provides against a related Apicomplexan parasite, Plasmodium, that causes malaria. In this paper, we examine the impact of both the sickle cell anemia and sickle trait red blood cell (RBC) environment on different aspects of the B. divergens life-cycle, and reveal that multiple aspects of parasite biological processes are altered in the mutant sickle anemia RBC. Such processes include parasite population progression, caused potentially by defective merozoite infectivity and/or defective egress from the sickle cell, resulting in severely lowered parasitemia in these cells with sickle cell anemia. In contrast, the sickle trait RBC provide a supportive environment permitting in vitro infection rates comparable to those of wildtype RBC. The elucidation of these naturally occurring RBC resistance mechanisms is needed to shed light on host-parasite interaction, lend evolutionary insights into these related blood-borne parasites, and to provide new insights into the development of therapies against this disease.
ASJC Scopus subject areas