Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Global Health

Major Professor

Wilbur Milhous, Ph.D.


Malaria, Protein expression, Drug resistance, Arthemisinin-based combination therapy, Detoxification of xenobiotics


Malaria is a disease of major public health importance, killing approximately one million people and causing about 250 million cases of fever annually. It mostly affects children under the age of five and pregnant women in many developing countries, making it a prominent issue in international health and maternal and child health. The most aggressive form of malaria is caused by the parasite Plasmodium falciparum which is responsible for 80% of infections and 90% of deaths from malaria, and is most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa. Public Health interventions include the implementation of prevention programs, health education, and chemotherapy. The latter has experienced multiple problems in the past years whereby resistance of the parasite to the available drugs has emerged, rendering the majority of them ineffective.

Furthermore, the high cost of those drugs represents a major obstacle to their dispensation in areas of the world where the affected people are often the less fortunate. The enzyme Cytochrome b5 Reductase (cb5r) and its electron acceptor Cytochrome b5 (cb5) play a role in fatty acid elongation, cholesterol biosynthesis, and cytochrome P450-mediated detoxification of xenobiotics. Therefore, these proteins are suitable as potential novel drug targets for malaria. These two proteins have been thoroughly studied in mammals but have to be characterized in microorganisms such as fungi and parasites, including Plasmodium falciparum. It is important to note that plant cb5r has been identified as a novel herbicidal target. Considering the close phylogenetic relationship between plant cb5r and Plasmodium falciparum cb5r, we conclude that these plant inhibitors may also serve as promising candidates for a new class of antimalarial drugs against the parasite.

In this project, we want to obtain the biochemical and enzymatic characterization of cb5r and cb5 in order to establish whether these two proteins represent potential novel drug targets in Plasmodium falciparum malaria. This initial work may lead to the development of novel drugs which will consequently affect the field of public health with respect to drug delivery, drug resistance, and drug chemotherapy.