We are looking at how the immune system responds to the malaria parasite in order to find better ways to prevent and treat the disease.
Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites transmitted through bites of infected mosquitoes. In 2016, there were more than 216 million cases and nearly half a million deaths from malaria worldwide, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, and it is a major health burden in many countries.
We want to understand more about how the immune system responds to parasite infection, and are particularly interested in finding out how the different components of the immune system protect us from infection, as well as how they can influence the severity of the disease. We would like to know more about the molecules of the parasites that stimulate these protective or pathological responses.
Using the mouse as a model for human malaria, we are developing ways of manipulating the cells and molecules of the immune system to determine how the infection is eliminated from the blood, and whether the pathological effects of the immune response can be blocked to prevent severe malarial disease.
We also study the immune response of children who live in an area of Africa where they are constantly exposed to malaria. Most children suffer only few infections before developing immunity. However, there is small minority who have many episodes before becoming resistant. By comparing their immune responses we hope to determine the mechanisms responsible for controlling the infection, which are lacking in repeatedly-infected children. We will use this information to develop predictive biomarkers of susceptibility and develop new therapies to treat or prevent malaria.