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ASU researchers receive NIH awards for studies of malaria and emergent disease
Date:10/29/2008

An Arizona State University research team headed by School of Life Sciences Associate Professor Ananias Escalante will share in more than $6.3 million in awards from the National Institutes of Health for three related studies. Two of the studies will examine the ecology and evolution of malaria and a third will delve into the genetic mysteries behind the host shift of retroviral disease from primates to humans.

Escalante, lead investigator of the malarial studies, will undertake a global comparative study of the evolution of malarial drug resistance, with support from Yuseob Kim, assistant professor, and Maria Pacheco-Delgado, faculty research associate, in ASU's School of Life Sciences. The researchers focus will be on the malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum.

Worldwide, malaria ranks with tuberculosis and HIV-AIDS among the most important causes of disease and death. Malaria kills a child from somewhere in the world every 30 seconds and is responsible for 350 million to 500 million clinical cases and 1 million deaths each year. According to Escalante, human malaria is endemic in most tropical and subtropical ecosystems worldwide, a burden that poses a significant barrier to global development. Of the four human malarial parasites, P. falciparum and Plasmodium vivax are responsible for most malaria morbidity and mortality.

Escalante and his colleagues seek to understand which types of P. falciparum populations are most prone to the emergence of drug resistance or to the reemergence of drug sensitivity. Investigating how antimalarial drug use selects for resistance is a matter of great interest in evolutionary biology and public health, Escalante says.

"This work will provide good theoretical population genetics models to allow scientists to analyze advantageous mutations and the dynamics of mutations under natural selection in a geographically structured population, " Escalante explains. Suc
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Contact: Margaret Coulombe
margaret.coulombe@asu.edu
480-727-8934
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert

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