Malaria caused by Plasmodium spp parasites is a profound human health problem that has shaped our evolutionary past and continues to influence modern day with a disease burden that disproportionately affects the world's poorest and youngest. A plastid organelle, the apicoplast, has been hailed as Plasmodium's ?Achilles' heel? because it contains bacteria-derived pathways that have no counterpart in the human host and therefore may be ideal drug targets. In this study, we use a simple chemical method to generate parasites that have lost their apicoplast, normally a deadly event, but which survive by the addition of an essential metabolite to the culture. This chemical rescue demonstrates that the apicoplast serves only a single essential function, namely isoprenoid precursor biosynthesis during blood-stage growth, validating this metabolic function as a viable drug target.
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