LSTM seminar series From bench to field: The Center for the Study of Complex Malaria in India

News article 4 Dec 2013

LSTM’s seminar series continued today with a presentation by Professor Jane Carlton, Director of the Center for the Genomics and Systems Biology, New York University. “From bench to field: The Center for the Study of Complex Malaria in India” was introduced by LSTM’s Dr Mark Paine.

Professor Carlton started by explaining that the Center for the Study of Complex Malaria in India is one of 10 centres set up in 2010, funded by the National Institutes for Health (NIH), working across the malarial world. The centres work together as international centres for excellence in malaria research. They take a multidisciplinary approach and focus on capacity building, and research that benefits in-country control programmes.

Professor Carlton went on to look at the issue of malaria in India, a vastly populated country, which is both topographically and climatically diverse. There was an estimated 1.3 million cases of the disease in India in 2010, although there is a problem with under reporting. The main malarial parasites affecting the country
are P. falciparum and P. vivax, which are constantly shifting as to which is most prevalent, and are transmitted by at least six species of anopheles vector. The in-country partner in the Centre is theNational Institute of Malaria Research in India (NIMR), who are working with the staff from NYU and Penn State University.

She explained that the Center for the Study of Complex Malaria in India was so named because malaria is a complex disease. People who become infected are often infected by more than one genetically different strain at the same time, an analysis of which would clearly help the clinical team to overcome associated problems, including sexual recombination producing novel genotypes. The goals of the centre are to analyse mixed genotype infections and to train the next generation of scientists who will work on the disease in-country.

She continued by explaining the two projects currently being worked on, an eco-epidemiology Study and a drug resistance and genomic study. The studies are carried out across three NIMR sites, Nadiad, a peri-urban setting, Chennai, a densely urban setting and Raukela, a forest setting, and explained the methods by which the team would be collecting data. Professor Carlton described the results of census information that had been gathered in each of the area to show the difference in demographics.

The first two years have been about setting up the three sites in terms of staff, infrastructure and samples along with completion of a pilot epidemiology study. She explained the regime for testing samples that came in, with three distinct tests providing different and, in some cases, surprising results depending on the study area.

She concluded by looking forward to the work that will continue to be developed and the aim to sequence more P. Vivax genomes, as the existing work highlights that P.vivax is genetically much more diverse among the strains than that of the P. falciparum, posing greater challenges to resistance, the development of effective treatment and vaccines.