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Neglected malaria parasites: genomic discovery and translation
Investigator(s): Dr Susana Campino (LSHTM), Prof Taane Clark (LSHTM) and Dr Martin Walker (RVC)
Amount Awarded: £99,960

Malaria, caused by Plasmodium parasite infections, is an important public health problem causing annually ~212 million cases and 429,000 deaths. The majority of this malaria-related burden is due to P. falciparum, followed by P. vivax infections. Other species are rarely life threatening but can cause substantial rates of illness (e.g. chronic-anaemia, nephroticsyndrome). This is the case for P. ovale curtisi (Poc), P ovale wallikeri (Pow) and P. malariae (Pm), but it is becoming clear that infections with these parasites are more common than previously thought, with a prevalence of >14% in parts of Africa. These parasites can cause persistent malaria infection and reappear several weeks and even decades after the first infection, which could compromise malaria elimination efforts. Moreover, recent data indicates that these infections may not be cleared by standard antimalarial therapies. Little is known about the biology of these neglected parasites, and this needs to be addressed if better diagnostics, treatments and effective vaccines are to be available for malaria elimination. Investigating the parasite genomes using whole genome sequencing (WGS) technologies can increase our knowledge about the biology of these parasites. We aim to use WGS and analyse the neglected Poc, Pow and Pm species from a collection of >700 samples, sourced worldwide. This large dataset will give us deeper insight into parasite biology and evolution. Also, we will use the data to develop a low-cost, rapid diagnostic tool to distinguish all six human malaria species, not currently possible using existing diagnostics, therefore assisting progress towards disease elimination.

Research team:

Dr Susana Campino, Associate Professor in Malaria Genomics, LSHTM
Prof Taane Clark, Professor of Genomics and Global Health, LSHTM
Dr Martin Walker, Lecturer in Epidemiology, RVC