Periodic Parasites and Daily Host Rhythms

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology; Department of Neurobiology; NeuroNexus Institute; Weaver Lab

Publication Date


Document Type



Microbiology | Neuroscience and Neurobiology | Parasitology


Biological rhythms appear to be an elegant solution to the challenge of coordinating activities with the consequences of the Earth's daily and seasonal rotation. The genes and molecular mechanisms underpinning circadian clocks in multicellular organisms are well understood. In contrast, the regulatory mechanisms and fitness consequences of biological rhythms exhibited by parasites remain mysterious. Here, we explore how periodicity in parasite traits is generated and why daily rhythms matter for parasite fitness. We focus on malaria (Plasmodium) parasites which exhibit developmental rhythms during replication in the mammalian host's blood and in transmission to vectors. Rhythmic in-host parasite replication is responsible for eliciting inflammatory responses, the severity of disease symptoms, and fueling transmission, as well as conferring tolerance to anti-parasite drugs. Thus, understanding both how and why the timing and synchrony of parasites are connected to the daily rhythms of hosts and vectors may make treatment more effective and less toxic to hosts.


Plasmodium, circadian clock, circadian rhythm, entrainment, fitness, host-parasite interactions, inflammatory response, intra-erythrocytic development cycle, metabolism, nutrient sensing, periodicity, synchronicity

DOI of Published Version



Prior KF, Rijo-Ferreira F, Assis PA, Hirako IC, Weaver DR, Gazzinelli RT, Reece SE. Periodic Parasites and Daily Host Rhythms. Cell Host Microbe. 2020 Feb 12;27(2):176-187. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2020.01.005. PMID: 32053788. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Cell host and microbe

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Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID