Research Article

Novel biochemical pathways in parasitic protozoa

A. H. Fairlamba1

a1 Department of Medical Parasitology, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT


Throughout evolution, enzymes and their metabolites have been highly conserved. Parasites are no exception to this and differ most markedly by the absence of metabolic pathways that are present in the mammalian host. In general, parasites are metabolically lazy and rely on the metabolism of the host both for a supply of prefabricated components such as purines, fatty acids, sterols and amino acids and for the removal of end-products. Nonetheless, parasites are metabolically highly sophisticated in that (1) they retain the genetic capacity to induce many pathways, when needed, and (2) they have developed complex mechanisms for their survival in the host. Certain unique features of the metabolism of trypanosomes, leishmania, malaria and anaerobic protozoa will be discussed. This will include (1) glycolysis and electron transport with reference to the unique organelles: the glycosome and the hydrogenosome, (2) purine salvage, pyrimidine biosynthesis and folic acid metabolism and (3) polyamine and thiol metabolism with special reference to the role of the unique metabolite of trypanosomes and leishmanias, trypanothione.

Key words

  • parasitic protozoa;
  • chemotherapy;
  • metabolism;
  • glycolysis;
  • electron transport