In addition to the lab’s work on tick-borne diseases, human malaria is a major research focus. Most of us don’t stop to think much about malaria in our daily lives. Although it was once a problem even here in the US, malaria is devastating disease of the world’s tropical region. Millions die from it each year, most of them children.
Work in our lab has focused on understanding how malaria parasite change over time. We’ve found that malaria has undergone some very recent evolutionary changes that have great impact on human health . This work is highlighted in a series of articles, but here’s a selection of those.
In 2012, we reported on a new way to treat malaria using a whole plant therapy. The plant, Artemisia annua, is the one from which the drug artemisinin is derived. But the extraction of the drug from the plant is expensive and limits the supply and availability of drug. We demonstrated that the plant itself kills malaria parasites, and it does so better than the drug.
We’re focusing our efforts now on determining whether this treatment will be susceptible to the parasites’ ability to become resistant to the treatment with whole plant A. annua.