Married to malaria

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Discuss malaria research in Brazil and the names Ruth and Victor Nussenzweig are likely to come up. Together in marriage and in the laboratory, the 76-year-old scientists have spent decades studying the disease and attempts to control it.

In 1967, for instance, Ruth Nussenzweig showed it is possible to immunise rodents against the disease by irradiating sporozoites, the form of the Plasmodium parasite that causes the disease.

In this interview with Marcos Pivetta in Revista da Fapesp, the Nussenzweigs discuss their research and the main challenges to controlling malaria in developing countries.

In the 1980s, the couple showed that one of the parasite’s proteins could be used to evoke an immune response and provide some protection against infection. Since then, the same protein has been a key component of vaccines that have been developed, including a new one that has been achieving promising results in Africa.

The Nussenzweigs comment on life as a scientist in Brazil and the United States. The couple left Brazil when its period of military dictatorship began in the 1960s and moved to the United States, where they live now, working at New York University’s School of Medicine.

Link to the full article in Revista da Fapesp (in Portuguese)