Plasmodium falciparum is the deadliest strain of malaria and the mortality rate is increasing because of pathogen drug resistance. Increasing knowledge of the parasite life cycle and mechanism of infection may provide new models for improved treatment paradigms. This study sought to investigate the paramagnetic nature of the parasite’s haemozoin to inhibit parasite viability.
Paramagnetic haemozoin crystals, a byproduct of the parasite’s haemoglobin digestion, interact with a rotating magnetic field, which prevents their complete formation, causing the accumulation of free haem, which is lethal to the parasites. Plasmodium falciparum cultures of different stages of intraerythrocytic growth (rings, trophozoites, and schizonts) were exposed to a magnetic field of 0.46 T at frequencies of 0 Hz (static), 1, 5, and 10 Hz for 48 h. The numbers of parasites were counted over the course of one intraerythrocytic life cycle via flow cytometry. At 10 Hz the schizont life stage was most affected by the rotating magnetic fields (p = 0.0075) as compared to a static magnetic field of the same strength. Parasite growth in the presence of a static magnetic field appears to aid parasite growth.
Sequestration of the toxic haem resulting from haemoglobin digestion is key for the parasites’ survival and the focus of almost all existing anti-malarial drugs. Understanding how the parasites create the haemozoin molecule and the disruption of its creation aids in the development of drugs to combat this disease.