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New from MESA: ‘Top 5 Picks!’ – Researchers choose their favourite malaria articles from the past year

April 26, 2017 - 13:59 -- MESA Alliance

“As a researcher working in a country that has decided to take on the challenge of eliminating malaria, the knowledge in the paper is enriching”. This is how Sandra Chishimba chose her ‘Top Pick’ article for World Malaria Day 2017.  MESA (Malaria Eradication Scientific Alliance) asked five experts what recent paper has helped them in their effort to outsmart malaria. The papers had to be open access, authored by another group, and published in the last 12 months.

  • Sandra Chishimba is a research scientist with PATH in Zambia, she selected The impact of hotspot-targeted interventions on malaria transmission in Rachuonyo South District in the western Kenyan highlands: A cluster-randomized controlled trial from Bousema T and colleagues, published in PLOS Medicine. The lessons learned from this study in Kenya are relevant to Sandra and her team in Zambia “the paper looks at some of the challenges we are facing and discusses weaknesses of some of the tools…including the need to pay attention to insecticide resistance before using an IRS (Indoor Residual Spraying) intervention.” Sandra praised the work and said that it stimulated their thinking about their own strategies in Zambia “they describe some great ideas that we can adapt and make them work for us”.
  • Ipsita Pal Bhowmick is a scientist at the Model Rural Health Research Unit (MRHRU), Tripura State in India. Ipsita recommends the review Tools and strategies for malaria control and elimination: What do we need to achieve a grand convergence in malaria? from Hemingway J and colleagues, published in PLOS Biology, which considers surveillance and response as a key malaria intervention alongside vector control tools, vaccines, diagnostics and drugs.  The authors review current surveillance and response approaches, and candidate tools in the development pipelines. Ipsita works in the North-East region of India and the review on surveillance strategies was very relevant for her work, “I’ve especially benefitted from the update on real-time mobile surveillance systems as we are trying to utilize this technology”.
  • Selina Bopp is a research scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the USA. Her focus of work is to understand the biological mechanism of piperaquine resistance. Selina chose two publications that have helped the field take a step forward “we are characterizing the biology of the resistant parasites to find out how they are able to survive under high drug pressure. The two papers on the genetic determinants are therefore very important to my work.” Genetic markers associated with dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine failure in Plasmodium falciparum malaria in Cambodia: a genotype-phenotype association study from Amato R and colleagues, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases and A surrogate marker of piperaquine-resistant Plasmodium falciparum malaria: a phenotype-genotype association study from Witkowski B and colleagues, also published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases. The papers describe molecular markers for decreased treatment efficacy with piperaquine in vitro in P. falciparum isolates, and recrudescence following dihydroartemisinin–piperaquine treatment in patients in Cambodia. Specifically, both papers point to copy number variations in parasite plasmepsin 2–3 genes as mediating piperaquine resistance in Cambodia.
  • Lídia Nhamússua is a research scientist at the Manhiça Health Research Centre (CISM) in Mozambique. Lídia’s Top Pick was the article from Mahende C and colleagues Performance of rapid diagnostic test, blood-film microscopy and PCR for the diagnosis of malaria infection among febrile children from Korogwe District, Tanzania, published in Malaria Journal. For Lídia, the paper is important as it investigates an ongoing challenge "looking at the performance of the current methods is relevant, diagnosis is a challenge at very low infections". The authors discuss the results of the study, including potential reasons behind false positive and false negative results from the different diagnostic tests.
  • Melisa Gualdrón-López works as a postdoc at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) and Institut d’Investigació Germans Trias i Pujol (IGTP) in Spain, she recommends the paper Laser capture microdissection enables transcriptomic analysis of dividing and quiescent liver stages of Plasmodium relapsing species from Cubi R and colleagues, published in Cellular Microbiology. Melisa chose the paper since it marks a big step forward in what is a key biological challenge for malaria eradication, “relapsing malaria occurs when latent hepatic forms of parasites reactivate from hibernation causing disease symptoms months or years after the initial infection…What I liked most about this article is the technical approach that the authors took”. Melisa commented that it is no mean feat to isolate hypnozoites from schizonts “…such scarce and tiny cells”. The authors describe how they isolated P. cynomolgi hypnozoites in monkey hepatocytes and generated the first hypnozoite transcriptome.  They have identified potential molecular markers of hypnozoites and suggest that ApiAP2 transcription factors may be involved in keeping hypnozoites dormant. Further work is needed towards identifying ways to wake up and clear hypnozoites.

Thank you to the malaria researchers for their ‘Top 5 Picks’ and congratulations to the authors! This blog was written by Kate Whitfield (ISGlobal, MESA) and is cross-posted on the MESA website.