The second study led by Escalante will look at the evolution of P. vivax and Asian macaque malarias. Although this parasite is the most prevalent malarial parasite outside of sub-Saharan Africa, Escalante says that little information presently exists with regard to its genetic diversity. Targeting parasite proteins, either by vaccination or chemotherapeutic drugs, requires an understanding of how the parasites have evolved and the extent and maintenance of their variation.
"Our long-term goal is to link population-level research with comparative genome approaches to understand the origin, demographic history, and genetic diversity of P. vivax at those genes encoding proteins that are involved in the invasion of the red blood cell, a crucial step in the parasite life cycle," Escalante explains. "Our research considers nonhuman primate malarias an important element of the puzzle. We are studying not only well characterized P. vivax and nonhuman primate malaria isolates, but also field isolates from human and nonhuman primate malarias in order to assess the demographic history of the extant populations, explore host-specificity, and assess putative genetic variation that may be under positive selection by the host immune system."
Escalante says that he is "particularly interested in how host switches may lead to molecular adaptations in parasites and pathogens and how the demographic history of parasite and pathogen affects its adaptive variation."
Host shifts are the focus of the third study where Escalante is the ASU principal investigator. This is a project involving multiple investigators and institutions coordinated by Escalante and Lisa Jones-Engel, a field biological anthropologist from Universi
|Contact: Margaret Coulombe|
Arizona State University