Babesiosis is a zoonosis, a disease communicable from animals to man. The rodent parasite, Babesia microti and the bovine pathogen, Babesia divergens are responsible for most of the human infections that have been reported to date, globally. From a blood safety perspective, transfusion-transmitted infections involving Babesia spp. have become increasingly problematic in the USA, with progressively more reported each year. Therefore the study of this blood-borne parasite should be considered as a priority for transfusion medicine. Our purpose is to understand the invasion process of B. divergens into the human red blood cell (RBC), with the ultimate aim of exploiting parasite molecules found to play key roles in invasion as diagnostic and blood screening tools. The in-vitro system that we use for studying invasion of the human red cell by B. divergens, permits direct exploration of the events associated with parasite invasion of the human RBC, using viable merozoites of B. divergens. Molecules on the surface of the parasite and those secreted by apical organelles function at the host/parasite interface, and we need to identify them and determine their interactions and function, if we are to define the steps in the invasion mechanism and identify new therapeutic targets. We have identified one such putative RBC binding ligand, Bd30 and the focus of our project is the study of its interaction with the RBC, specifically the glycophorins, during parasite invasion. There are three specific aims in this proposal (1) To characterize glycophorin A (GPA) and glycophorin B (GPB) as RBC receptors for B. divergens invasion (2) To validate Bd30 as the B. divergens ligand that binds glycophorin A (GPA) and/or glycophorin B (GPB) and to characterize Bd30 in the parasite and (3) To evaluate the functional significance of the interaction between GPA and/or GPB and Bd17 in merozoite invasion. Methodology that is proposed includes inhibition of invasion assays using specific enzyme treatments of the RBC, mutant cells lacking defined RBC antigens and the use of antibodies and competitor peptides;erythrocyte binding assays using native and recombinant Bd30 ligand protein and antibodies against Bd30 in invasion assays, as well as proposed gene deletion to study its function. Thus, the major goal of the project is to elucidate the molecular mechanisms involved in the entry of B. divergens merozoites into the erythrocyte. It is anticipated that studies detailed in this proposal will result in reagents for diagnosis, epidemiology and treatment and prevention of human babesiosis, and assist in developing products to screen blood products.

Public Health Relevance

Babesiosis is a zoonosis, a disease communicable from animals to man and an important blood-borne human parasitic infection. Human to human transmission of the parasite is well recognized to occur through blood transfusion. Despite being a significant threat to the safety of blood transfusions, its study has largely been neglected. The long term objective of the present proposal is to develop a detailed mechanistic understanding of the erythrocytic invasion of the B. divergens parasite in order to develop novel therapies for treating the infection and effective strategies for screening of blood donors for babesia infection. We are specifically looking at interactions between the RBC receptors, glycophorins A and B and the Babesia molecules that bind to them so that we can define the steps in the invasion mechanism. Recognizing that Babesia is an expanding blood safety threat we are interested in the development of viable interventions to detect and halt transmission of these pathogens via blood transfusions.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-VH-E (50))
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Zou, Shimian
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New York Blood Center
New York
United States
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González, Luis M; Castro, Emma; Lobo, Cheryl A et al. (2015) First report of Babesia divergens infection in an HIV patient. Int J Infect Dis 33:202-4
Ord, Rosalynn Louise; Lobo, Cheryl A (2015) Human Babesiosis: Pathogens, Prevalence, Diagnosis and Treatment. Curr Clin Microbiol Rep 2:173-181
Cursino-Santos, Jeny R; Alhassan, Andy; Singh, Manpreet et al. (2014) Babesia: impact of cold storage on the survival and the viability of parasites in blood bags. Transfusion 54:585-91
Rodriguez, Marilis; Alhassan, Andy; Ord, Rosalynn L et al. (2014) Identification and characterization of the RouenBd1987 Babesia divergens Rhopty-Associated Protein 1. PLoS One 9:e107727
Cursino-Santos, Jeny R; Halverson, Greg; Rodriguez, Marilis et al. (2014) Identification of binding domains on red blood cell glycophorins for Babesia divergens. Transfusion 54:982-9
Lobo, Cheryl A; Cursino-Santos, Jeny R; Alhassan, Andy et al. (2013) Babesia: an emerging infectious threat in transfusion medicine. PLoS Pathog 9:e1003387
Lobo, Cheryl A; Rodriguez, Marilis; Cursino-Santos, Jeny R (2012) Babesia and red cell invasion. Curr Opin Hematol 19:170-5