The Plasmodium parasites that cause malaria have a remarkable talent for survival. They can evade the human immune system, develop resistance to antimalarial drugs, and cope with changes in the Anopheles mosquitoes that transmit them from person to person.
This biological tenacity stems from the accumulation of small changes in the parasite genome, which allow parasite populations to adapt to new circumstances by evolutionary selection.
The continual evolution of the parasite genome is a major obstacle to malaria control, but we're moving closer to a time when genomics can help us to answer crucial questions about malaria parasites: Where are parasites coming from? Which parasites are drug resistant – or likely to become drug resistant? Where drug resistance is detected, is it a new occurrence or is it spreading from other areas?
Forewarned is forearmed, and we aim to improve the sustainability and efficacy of malaria control measures by providing a rapid means of tracking evolutionary changes in response to environmental fluctuations and malaria control interventions.
What we've done
- Released open access data on more than 1,000,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms in P. falciparum, which is responsible for the deadliest form of malaria
- Brought together consortia of international experts to establish standards for population genomic analysis of malaria parasites
- Supported a new African-led network investigating parasite diversity and antimalarial drug resistance in Africa
- Built interactive web applications that allow researchers to explore complex patterns of genetic variation Pf3k, P. falciparum Community Project, P. vivax Genome Variation, P. falciparum Genetic Crosses)
- Discovered a complex genetic architecture of artemisinin-resistant P. falciparum in Southeast Asia and uncovered new insights into the evolution of artemisinin resistant malaria
- Discovered the evolving drug resistance and infection history of P. vivax
- Deep sequenced parents and progeny of three experimental P. falciparum genetic crosses to study genome variation and recombination in high resolution
- Discovered genetic markers for piperaquine resistance in P. falciparum in Cambodia
- Pioneered a reliable and scalable way of generating P. falciparum genome sequence data from dried blood spot samples using selective whole genome amplification