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The Plasmodium digestive (food) vacuole is an acidic proteolytic compartment central to the metabolism of the parasite. Here haemoglobin is degraded, haem is polymerized, amino acid are transported, oxygen radicals are detoxified, drugs are accumulated, acidification is maintained and free iron may be generated. Despite these crucial roles in parasite development, a number of questions about the digestive vacuole and the haemoglobin ingestion pathway remain unanswered; in consequence, a number of attractive drug targets remain to be exploited. Piero Olliaro and Daniel Goldberg here review the morphology, metabolism and pharmacological disruption of this specialized organelle.

Original publication




Journal article


Parasitology today (Personal ed.)

Publication Date





294 - 297


Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland.