The USF College of Public Health’s Center for Global Health and Infectious Disease Research (GHIDR) is dedicated to improving the lives of people afflicted by infectious disease through the development of improved diagnostics, treatment and preventive mechanisms.
Distinguished University Professor and GHIDR assistant director Dr. John Adams hosted a two week vivax malaria workshop in late April and early May to train military collaborators from across the globe in the use of improved research methods developed in his lab.
According to Adams, the military has an invested interested in the prevention and eradication of malaria since thousands of military troops are deployed to malaria endemic regions yearly, increasing their exposure to the disease.
“By collaborating with this network of well-trained, well-equipped scientists we will further the Center’s mission and bring the goal of malaria eradication one step closer,” Adams said.
Vivax malaria is a parasitic disease caused by Plasmodium vivax. Despite an estimated 13.8 million cases in 2014, it is considered a neglected disease due to serious research challenges and the relative lack of reliable funding and political attention.
Unlike other malaria parasites, Plasmodium vivax cannot be grown continuously in the lab. Researchers must have direct access to parasites from infected patients, usually from clinics in malaria endemic regions, in order to run experiments to develop new drugs and vaccines.
Researchers in Adams’ lab have been able to develop an improved system to freeze the transmissive stage of the malaria parasite, used for studying the asymptomatic liver stage, so that they can be shipped worldwide, broadening access to parasite samples.
According to Adams, access to healthy parasites is only half of the battle when working with vivax malaria.
He said it is exceedingly difficult to simulate the natural course of infection in the laboratory and that existing processes are arduous, time consuming, and prone to failure.
To combat this issue, Adams’ lab has collaborated with other groups to develop an improved method to recapitulate parasite invasion and development into liver cells which can then be used to test new potential drugs for activity.
This system, the most efficient of its kind, was enhanced in part by COPH doctoral candidate, Alison Roth.
“The availability of our improved invasion assay methods will hopefully allow progress against this disease to be made more quickly and efficiently. We are holding this workshop to train some of our closest collaborators in these methods,” Roth said.
The attendees at this workshop included two USF COPH alumni, Captain Brian Vesely Chief of Assay Design at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) and Samantha Aylor, Biological Scientist in the ET group at Walter Reed.
Also in attendance:
Dr. Geral Christian Baldeviano
Senior Research Scientist in the Division of Immunology and Vaccine Development at NAMRU-6 (US Naval Medical Research Unit 6)
Head of Parasitology at NAMRU-6
Dr. Gissella Vazquez
Deputy of the Entomology Department at NAMRU-6
Ms. Waranya Buadok
Medical Research Technician in the Department of Entomology at AFRIMS (Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences)
Mr. Supakit Wanasith
Medical Research Technician in the Department of Entomology at AFRIMS
According to Dr. Adams, through strengthening our collaborative relationships with this workshop, researchers in the lab will have access to high quality parasite samples from field sites in Peru and Thailand, thus improving the quality of results and reducing waste.
“It highlights USF’s role as a frontrunner in vivax malaria research,” Adams said.
Story by Ashley Souza, USF College of Public Health