The Anders Björkman Malaria Project - Malaria treatment and control
Improving Diagnosis, Treatment and Control/Elimination of Plasmodium falciparum Malaria
Our research has historically addressed challenges of improving diagnosis, treatment and control of Plasmodium falciparum malaria. A major aim has continuously been to apply new biomedical technologies to respond to parasitological, clinical and epidemiological research questions. That implies studies on diagnostic technologies and malaria therapies and studies on the possible evolution and selection of different genetic parasite alterations potentially associated to resistance to detection, diagnosis and/or treatment of P. falciparum. A main overall aim is to address the research question “is it possible to eliminate malaria from a high endemic region, typical of sub Saharan Africa?” Our main research site is Zanzibar where our project has been uniquely successful reaching “pre-elimination”. We are now exploring new interventions to possibly and further uniquely reach elimination of the locally residual transmission.
|Berit Aydin Schmidt||Anknuten|
|Anders Björkman||Professor, senior|
|Irina Tatiana Jovel Quiñonez Dalmau||Anknuten|
The main present malaria projects in the malaria research unit at Karolinska Institutet include new strategies for malaria elimination and anti-malarial treatments, evolution of drug resistance, and new tools and strategies for malaria diagnosis. Follow the links to find out more about each project.
New strategies for malaria control - aiming at elimination in Zanzibar
Zanzibar was first in Sub-Saharan Africa to implement new modern partly novel malaria control/elimination methods on a wide scale, including tools such as rapid malaria diagnostic tests, artemisinin-based combination therapies, insecticide-treated bed nets and indoor residual spraying. Our Zanzibar project has therefore developed into a model pilot project for modern control/elimination interventions in endemic malaria situations commonly found in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Our results have shown a unique massive decrease in malaria transmission and public health burden (reduced morbidity and mortality), creating hope for the potential elimination of malaria on the isles of Zanzibar and the African continent. Our present aim is to provide historical evidence and proof of concept for possible malaria elimination from a high endemic area.
Specific studies focus on new targeted elimination strategies, are now being undertaken to develop novel methods for malaria incidence surveillance and, drug resistance monitoring, and understanding as well as ensuring the sustainability of intervention usage and community uptake. The implications of successful malaria elimination control on the socio-economic development of Zanzibar will also be studied.
Modern artemisinin-based combination drugs against malaria - malaria drugs and evolution of resistance
The global strategy for malaria control/elimination relies on sustained high efficacy of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACT) as an anti-malarial treatment. The high efficacy of ACTs relies on the fast acting artemisinin component together with the long acting partner drugs. The emergence of resistance to ACTs poses one of the largest challenges in malaria control and elimination.
We employ in vivo and in vitro methods to study the selection of resistant parasite populations following drug exposures. Genetic markers of malaria parasite tolerance and resistance to antimalarial drugs are a useful tool for the surveillance of antimalarial drug resistance. We monitor molecular markers to track the spread of resistance alleles in parasite populations over time. Specific attention is given to the artemisinin family of compounds as well as their partner drugs included in the recommended combination therapies.
New tools and strategies for malaria diagnosis
In the era of decreasing malaria incidence there are needs for more sensitive and effective diagnostic tools. Rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) is an efficient diagnostic tool for malaria diagnosis in field health facilities, however in low endemic/ pre-elimination areas where a majority of parasite carriers are asymptomatic, the parasite densities are often too low to be detected by RDTs. Molecular technologies like Loop mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP) and PCRs are assessed as future tools for diagnosis and surveillance purposes and have been evaluated in several field studies. One of our studies have also focused on the aetiology of non-malarial, microbial manifestations of childhood fever and the efficiency of Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) algorithms for optimal management of fever patients.
The Anders Björkman Malaria Group has several collaborations in many parts of the world, the most extensive are:
- Zanzibar Malaria Control Program, Zanzibar Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Tanzania
- Muhimbili University for Health and Allied Sciences, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
- Malaria Research and Training Center, University of Bamako, Mali
Malaria is curable
There are approx 250 million cases of malaria each year
Malaria causes approx half a million deaths each year
3,3 billion people live in areas of malaria transmission
Malaria societal costs are estimated to be 12 billion USD per year in Africa alone
Children under the age of five and pregnant women are most at risk of severe malaria. People living in highly endemic areas develop partial resistance to malaria over time. Children under the age of five, who have not yet had time to develop partial immunity, account for 85% of all deaths from malaria. Pregnant women and their fetuses are also more susceptible due to parasite invasion of the placenta.
The symptoms of malaria are fever, headache, muscle/joint pain and fatigue. If the disease is not cured it will lead to severe malaria, which if left untreated may be lethal.
The malaria parasite
The malaria parasite has a complicated lifecycle with important stages in both mosquitoes and humans.
Malaria is caused by a unicellular parasite of the genus Plasmodium, and is transmitted by the female Anopheles mosquito that bites primarily from dusk to dawn.
In brief, parasites are transmitted to humans in the saliva of the mosquito when the mosquito takes a blood meal. First the parasites invade liver cells and thereafter red blood cells, where the parasites multiply million-fold.
These red blood cells eventually burst releasing the parasites into the blood stream for re-invasion of new red blood cells. This occurs at 46 or 72 hour intervals (depending on the parasite species) resulting in the symptoms of recurrent fever peaks typical of malaria.
There is a cure for malaria, thanks to efficient antimalarials such as the new artemisinin-based combination therapies.
However, accurate diagnosis and prevention of transmission are equally important in modern malaria control. Methods of prevention include sleeping under insecticide impregnated mosquito nets and indoor spraying with insecticides.
Chemoprophylaxis may also be used by visitors to malaria endemic areas.
For more information about malaria, please visit the WHO malaria website.
Below is a list of completed dissertations from the last 10 years
Maria Isabel Mendes Veiga
Billy Ephraim Ngasala
The molecular basis of Plasmodium falciparum resistance to the antimalarial lumefantrine
Mwinyi I. Msellem
Efficacy of artemisinin based combination therapy and effectiveness of rapid diagnostic test for management of patients with Plasmodium falciparum malaria in Zanzibar
Below are a few malaria related links
Postal and visiting adress
Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology
Solna vägen 9
171 65 Solna