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Malaria Research News

Chris Hartlove

Malaria Research News (con't)

Mapping Hidden Reservoirs

Tamaki KobayashiHospitalization rates for malaria are declining in Africa, but the disease is still far from being eliminated. Malaria parasites have been co-evolving with humans in Africa for millions of years, and, as Tamaki Kobayashi, PhD, MPH, explains, “in endemic areas, people who are repeatedly exposed to malaria develop a partial immunity, so they don’t feel sick even though they still harbor the parasites.”

To track these hidden reservoirs of malaria, Kobayashi, an Epidemiology research associate, has been sampling asymptomatic populations in Zambia using a blood test for antibodies against Plasmodium falciparum. Steadily declining levels of these antibodies in a person or a community indicate that malaria transmission has dropped off—and immunity has declined—while a sudden rise from lower levels indicates a recent exposure.

“In areas where malaria exposure is no longer so frequent, we think we can use this technique to develop a finely detailed map of its spread in asymptomatic people over time and across geography,” she says.

Kobayashi, who won a 2009 Young Investigator Award from the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, works closely with Molecular Microbiology and Immunology Professor Greg Glass, PhD, and research associate Tim Shields, MA. The experts in geographic information systems prepare maps of target areas using satellite imagery. “They help us to identify which households to include in our studies, and also help with spatial analysis,” she says.

Kobayashi has taken samples from more than 1,500 people over the past few years. In principle, those communities in which malaria is revealed to be quietly smoldering would become the focus of antimalarial drug treatment efforts. Even communities where antibody levels have fallen steadily would be encouraged to tighten their malaria control programs because, as Kobayashi says, “their falling immunity would indicate an increased susceptibility to disease resurgence."

Comments

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  • Richard Semakula

    Kampala 03/07/2011 02:40:18 AM

    I like you attempts to follow this human pest. I have a simple thought. Could you explore the possibility of adding a concentrated dose of a mosquito repellent into household bathing soap. this is one item used in all house holds and could be a great carrier for mosquito repelling agents.

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