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Portugal lab (2016 - 2020)

group members in 2020: front row => Nathália Ferreira Lima (Postdoc) with her child, Carolina Andrade (PhD student), Sukai Ceesay (PhD student), Silvia Portugal (group leader), Carrie Anderson (technician), Lasse Novél (PhD student), Usama Dabbas (PhD student); up in the tree => Nikolay Sergeev (HiWi), Hannah van Dijk (MSc student), Hannah Fleckenstein (PhD student) not in the picture => Richard Thomson Luque (Postdoc)

As of July 2020: Silvia Portugal New Group Leader at the MPI-IB in Berlin

Silvia Portugal (photo: Max-Planck-Institut für Infektionsbiologie)

On 1st July 2020 our former group leader Silvia Portugal started her new position as Lise Meitner research group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology (MPI-IB) in Berlin. Until 31 December 2020 she continued her projects at Heidelberg University Hospital (UKHD) in collaboration between the MPI-IB and UKHD. We wish Silvia all the best and look forward to a further successful collaboration!

Research focus of the Portugal lab while in Heidelberg

Exploring asymptomatic Plasmodium falciparum: Targeting the dry season reservoir of infection

The project aimed at exploring the biology of asymptomatic P. falciparum parasites and its interactions with the human host during the dry season that ensure that the parasite is not cleared and can be transmitted in the next transmission season. The main interests were to:

1) Compare the properties and function of P. falciparum parasites from asymptomatic individuals during the dry season versus symptomatic individuals during the malaria season;

2) Determine the kinetics of gametocyte carriage throughout the dry season and

3) Scrutinize internal signals and/or environmental cues promoting proliferation and gametocytogenesis when the mosquito vector returns during the rainy season.

A selection of activities while in Heidelberg

Article in Nat. Med.

(October 2020)

The malaria pathogens, parasites of the genus Plasmodium, need the Anopheles mosquito to get into humans. The mosquito larvae in turn need water to develop. This cycle is interrupted during dry periods, which last five to six months in many malaria areas. Silvia's lab has now been able to show how the parasites silently survive in humans during these dry periods without showing symptoms or an immune response: The proportion of parasites in the blood of infected persons is kept low by "disposing" of more parasites via the spleen.

Andrade, C.M., Fleckenstein, H., Thomson-Luque, R. et al. Increased circulation time of Plasmodium falciparum underlies persistent asymptomatic infection in the dry season. Nat Med (2020). 

DZIF Seminar Series

Malaria Cross talk between field and bench research

While in Heidelberg Silvia also initiated this very popular seminar series, which since the beginning of 2021 has been continued by our new group leader Victoria Ingham. Between 2017 - 2020 we had the pleasure of hosting more than 35 speakers in Heidelberg though the ones in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemics mostly virtually. The continution of the seminar series shows how much it has been appreciated and we are indeed very thankful to Silvia for setting it up in the first place.

Talk by S. Portugal

Keystone Symposium (Kampala, Uganda, 2017)

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Watch the short talk on "The silent reservoir of P. falciparum during the dry season" that was held by our group leader Silvia Portugal at the Keystone Symposium "Malaria: From Innovation to Eradication" in Kampala, Uganda (February 2017). This Keystone Symposia meeting examined the scientific progress being made toward the goals of eliminating and eradicating malaria, from biological challenges and discoveries, to the development of the next generation of tools, to potentially transformative strategies to eliminate malaria. The ultimate goal of the meeting was to provide a unique and needed space for the malaria community to challenge hypotheses and share emerging data and insights from the different disciplines in a retreat-like setting where scientists can network, think creatively and exchange ideas.

How to get in touch:

Photo: Medienzentrum, UKHD

Silvia Portugal, Ph.D.

Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology