News

    Scientists Highlight Latest Research on World Malaria Day

    Malaria is transmitted among humans by female Anopheles mosquitoes like this one.
    Malaria is transmitted among humans by female Anopheles mosquitoes like this one.
    Jessica Berman

    Dozens of leading medical researchers marked World Malaria Day Wednesday with a special gathering at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC.  They came to highlight the progress being made in efforts to prevent and treat malaria. Worldwide, the mosquito-borne illness claims more than 650,000 lives each year, the vast majority children in sub-Saharan Africa.

    Despite these grim statistics, experts are hopeful that with new drugs, new vaccines and new prevention strategies, malaria will eventually be conquered.

    The World Health Organization says one-third of the global population lives in malaria-endemic countries, where there were an estimated 216 million new cases last year caused by the bite of mosquitoes infected with malaria parasites.

    David Bowen is head of the group Malaria No More, a not-for-profit organization devoted to raising public awareness of the disease in the United States and in Africa, where malaria kills one child every minute of every day.

    “The idea of a child of ours or a child of a friend of ours dying is almost thankfully an unimaginable tragedy. And the fact that that happens once a minute across the world, principally in Africa, is almost impossible to conceive of and yet, that’s the fact,” Bowen said.

    Malaria No More brought a group of 20 scientists to Capitol Hill to discuss their cutting-edge malaria research.

    One of the researchers is Brian Grimberg, an assistant professor of international health at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.  His research has taken him to Papua New Guinea, where four of the five known types of malaria parasites are found.  Grimberg's work is part of a $7.9 million dollar Case Western-led project, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, to test new malaria therapies in Southeast Asia and the Southwest Pacific. The ultimate goal is to stop malaria’s deadly transmission not just in the Pacific but across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

    Using computer-assisted molecular modeling, the scientists have been looking for vaccine candidates and identifying experimental drugs. Grimberg says researchers from his lab are studying a newly discovered compound that kills the malaria parasite in lab-infected mice.


    “One of our lead ones is actually a leukemia drug, a [blood] cancer drug that was originally developed to treat different kinds of leukemia. And it turns out to be pretty effective against killing the [malaria] parasites,” Grimberg said.

    Because the anti-cancer drug has already received the regulatory nod in the United States, Grimberg hopes it could be approved quickly as a malaria treatment, if the human trials prove successful.

    Grimberg notes that resistance has now developed to all mainstay anti-malarial drugs, including the most potent treatment, artemisinin, which is derived from the sweet wormwood tree in China, and quinine, from the bark of a tree in Peru. He says those drugs were discovered by native populations.

    So, Grimberg says researchers who are part of his project will also talk with locals to see if they can discover any new and more effective compounds.

    “People who live in endemic areas with malaria have some sort of native treatment that they’ve developed or identified. And so we go in and take some of these plants, and we can extract the different compounds and see if they work. And one of the most interesting ones we found is from the island of Fiji, where there’s a sponge that grows just off the shore that people dive down and get it and dry it out, and then eat some of it whenever they feel they have malaria. It turns out to have three incredibly potent anti-malarial compounds in there,” Grimberg said.

    Other research highlighted at the Washington gathering included the use of genetic engineering to prevent mosquitoes from becoming infected with the parasite in the first place, so they can’t spread it to humans.

    Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, are using genetically modified bacterial viruses, known as phages, to produce a protein in the mosquitoes’ gut which blocks infection by the malaria parasite.  

    The mosquito ingests the phage from a piece of cotton soaked with a sugary solution, according to Luiz Shozo Ozaki, a VCU researcher who is spearheading the research.

    “If the mosquito eats this phage, the phage will go through its gut where the malaria parasite develops and will block the parasite there,” Ozaki said.

    Ozaki says a single genetically engineered viral phage produces thousands of inhibitor proteins against the parasite.

    Ozaki hopes the use of biological tools, such as phages, along with ongoing efforts to develop novel treatments and much-needed vaccines, will lead to the elimination of malaria,  one of the greatest public health scourges of all time.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora