School of Mathematics

Nick Savill

Chronobiology of malaria

The asexual cycle of replication of malaria parasites in mammalian hosts involves cycles of red blood cell invasion and bursting. Two remarkable features of this asexual cycle are that all parasites synchronise their bursting and that the cycle length is a multiple of 24h so that bursting occurs at the same time of day on each cycle. For example, Plasmodium chabaudi, the mouse malaria species we use in the lab, bursts every day at around 1am in the morning. If parasites are inoculated into an out-of-phase host parasites resynchronise to the host's circadian rhythm in about a week. How and why they do this are long standing questions. Our current project, involving evolutionary biologists, immuno-chronobiologists and mathematical modellers has the aim trying to shed some light on these questions. In this talk I will present our initial data on characterising asexual rhythms and the mathematical modelling that has helped clarify our conceptual model, and revealed interesting aspects, of this complex process.