Combatting Malaria

On 25 April 2016, members of the public gathered with researchers from the University of Oxford. The event was supported by the Nuffield Department of Medicine and the Centre for Tropical Medicine & Global Health, and organised by the WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance Network in partnership with five other innovative malaria research groups to mark World Malaria Day. Each scientist spoke about their latest pioneering research programmes and described how their work on unique and complimentary facets of the malaria challenge could together support the global drive to end malaria for good.

The lecture room was filled with participants travelling across Oxfordshire, Cambridge and London who gathered to learn about the international collaborative research efforts of the Mahidol Oxford Research Unit, the WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance NetworkThe Malaria Atlas ProjectMalariaGen and the Jenner Institute

Professor Kevin Marsh chaired the event and opened by highlighting how much is pent globally on controlling malaria and how huge the global burden is but that there has been a significant decrease in burden in the last 15 years. Dr Katherine Battle was the first speaker and discussed the MAP Project and the complexities of mapping vivax due to its ability to lie dormant in the liver.

Professor Philipe Guerin then discussed the challenges of drug resistance and Professor Nick White followed on from this in his presentation and how resistance has been arising in the same area on 3 separate occasions.

Dr Sumi Biswas highlighted efforts to develop a new malaria vaccine and compared approaches in Oxford with the GlaxoSmithKlein vaccine in Phase III trials. Professor Dominic Kwiatkowski then went back to the problems of drug resistance and how mutations in a gene called Kelch13 have been causing resistance to Artemesinin. By looking at populations (‘tribes’) of parasites he is hoping to understand what drives these mutations to occur.

The panel then answered questions about the complex facets of their projects and how they foresee contributing towards the global goal of eradicating malaria. Pertinent questions from the audience sparked a lively discussion about the interplay between vivax and falciparum malaria, drug resistance, vector control methods, and the importance of developing a malaria vaccine. The event finished with a closing perspective from each panel member on how optimistic they were that malaria could actually end, and what single initiative they believe would help to make this happen. Thereafter the audience were able to discuss the keenly debated issues during a drinks reception.