Stopping Malaria

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I think the possibilities of having a vaccine are real and obviously having a vaccine would be the holy ground, would be the gold standard, it would be the one tool that would really allow us to attempt to eradicate plasmodium falciparum at least. One of the four, five, human malarias that are out there.

A vaccine must produce resistance that's even greater than what can be naturally acquired by being infected multiple times, that's a tall order. I'm not saying it can't be done but that is a much longer and more complicated goal in producing, for example a new drug for which many new drugs have been produced over time.

The rule in malaria has been that, treatments that are deployed into the field eventually fail. Parasite with almost zero exceptions today evolves resistance and if that's going to be the rule, then we need to be two or three steps ahead of the parasite. Well I believe that prevention is very critical especially vector control, bed nets, insecticide spraying and so on, genetically modified mosquitoes.

Those are all critical components of eradication campaign. The part of the campaign that I am most engaged with is the development of the chemotherapeutics. It is only one component of this multi- arsenal strategy. My lab attempts to use new genomic technology to understand the cause of diseases that may be caused by viruses that we don't know.

One of these technologies is called next generation sequencing or ultra deep sequencing. You've probably heard of sequencing the human genome, a major, major project that took 10 plus years and a whole a lot of money. Well what You may not know, the cost of sequencing that is really in the genetic code has actually dropped about 50 thousand faults in the last 45 years.

This is a major revolution so this newer technology called next generation sequencing makes parallel the sequencing of genetic code so instead of sequencing one peice of DNA at a time, there're now machines, that can sequence hundreds of millions if not billions of pieces of DNA simultaneously.

So our rate of acquiring genetic information, reading the genetic code from any organism, from you, the virus that infects you, the bacteria on your skin, all that can be done now thousands of fold more efficiently than it's ever been done before. When you find the cause of infectious disease, it does not normally imply that there is a therapeutic off the shelf you can use, however even if there isn't a therapy that you can immediately grab and use for that patient.

Knowing what the infectious agent is allows the medical system with the doctor treating the patients to better tailor the clinical care to increase the probability of survival and decrease the probability of doing something that will antagonize the illness from making it worse.

I would always side on the side of knowledge, having the knowledge is better than not knowing it all.