Parasites can confuse their hosts' immune system by switching the proteins they display on their surface. But how? The intestinal parasite Giardi lamblia harnesses RNA interference to target which surface proteins to shut down, a study published tomorrow in Nature reports. "I actually think it's a superb paper," linkurl:Therdore Nash,;http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/labs/aboutlabs/lpd/gastrointestinalParasitesSection/ chief of gastrointestinal parasitology at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, told The Scientist. "It's a very novel and unique mechanism of antigenic variation." Many important unicellular parasites, including malaria and other species of plasmodium, undergo antigenic variation, in which the parasite can switch which protein is expressed on its membrane surface to confuse and evade the host immune system. These parasites can have 50 to 300 genes encoding this family of surface proteins, but only express one on the surface of each cell at a time. Each parasite has a different mechanism by which they express...
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