APMEN Newsroom


AAMI research uncovers 'sleeping beauties' of P. falciparum parasite

Dr Qin Cheng, Head of the Drug Resistance and Diagnostics Department at the Australian Army Malaria Institute, and colleagues have recently published findings on artemisinin-induced dormancy in Plasmodium falciparum in vitro in the latest Antimicrobial Agents Chemotherapy Journal issue.
Initial research from AAMI first discovered the dormancy phenomenon, where malaria parasites were observed to arrest their development after a short exposure to artemisinin derivatives and resume growth several days later. The dormant parasites were thought to be metabolically quiescent and not susceptible to antimalarial drugs , but recent work demonstrates that these dormant parasites are metabolically active although they have stopped growing and dividing.
The recrudescence of these “sleeping beauties” highlights an important biological phenomenon allowing parasites to survive drug pressure, and new avenues to interrupt dormancy recovery. These findings will help to reduce failure rates and increase efficacy of ART treatment.
"Artemisinin-induced dormancy enhances the survival of parasites following artemisinin treatment and is likely the mechanism for high rate of recrudescence observed prior to the emergence of artemisnin resistance," Dr Cheng said.

"Dormancy should also enhance the potential of parasites developing resistance to artemisnin drugs. More studies on this important phenomenon are underway."   
The full pdf version of this paper, Fatty acid synthesis and pyruvate metabolism pathways remain active in dihydroartemisinin induced dormant ring stages of Plasmodium falciparum, can be viewed/downloaded here.

APMEN review highlights need for community engagement with mobile populations for elimination


A new paper, commissioned by the Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network (APMEN) and published in Malaria Journal, has reviewed the literature on malaria and population mobility and made recommendations for new ways for elimination programs to understand and address population mobility.

Authors Dr Catherine Smith and Professor Maxine Whittaker identified three key bodies of work related to mobile populations. These are:

1) mobility, economic development and shifting land use;

2) concerns about accessing mobile populations; and

3) imported and border malaria.

The authors say that while there is a large body of work that sees mobile populations as risk factors for malaria elimination, the literature tends to focus excessively on mobile populations as a threat to elimination and to overstate the difficulties of accessing mobile populations. The paper reviews methods that have been used by some malaria programs, and by HIV/AIDS programs to work with mobile populations. These include respondent driven sampling, the use of social networks and community participation.

The article recommends that elimination programs shift beyond a focus on mobile populations as an isolated demographic group, to look at mobility as a system that connects multiple localities and demographic groups. This will allow better understanding of the spatial dimensions of mobility and the connections that mobility creates between demographic groups. It will also help programs to identify access points into mobility systems.

The review was commissioned by the Network’s Country Partners after population mobility was identified as an emerging issue of importance to the Asia Pacific Region. An earlier draft of the paper was presented to the Network at the fourth annual meeting in Seoul, Republic of Korea in 2012. The review was updated this year.

The pdf of the paper, Beyond mobile populations: a critical review of the literature on malaria and population mobility and suggestions for future directions, can be found in Malaria Journal.



Alarming new research: Drug resistance has spread in SE Asia


Scientists from the Mahidol-Oxford University Research Unit (MORU) have published new findings in the New England Journal of Medicine on the spread of resistance to the world's leading antimalarial drug, artemisinin, to critical border areas in Southeast Asia.

Read the full press release via The Wellcome Trust website, http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/News/Media-office/Press-releases/2014/WTP056987.htm

Reference: Ashley EA et al. Spread of artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum malaria. New England Journal of Medicine 2014;371:411-23.



New APMEN Malaria Journal publications - July 2014


APMEN featured strongly in Malaria Journal in July, with two publications bringing attention to Plasmodium vivax in Central China, and the need to defeat Plasmodium falciparum in the Greater Mekong subregion.

Commentary: The challenge of artemisinin resistance can only be met by eliminating Plasmodium falciparum malaria across the Greater Mekong subregion 

Gueye et al. Malaria Journal 2014, 13:286

Researchers from the Malaria Elimination Initiative (University of California, San Francisco) and the APMEN Secretariat (University of Queensland) have co-authored a commentary piece on the challenges of drug resistance in the Greater Mekong subregion (GMS) in Asia, which comprises 5 APMEN Country Partners (Cambodia, China, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Thailand and Vietnam) and also Myanmar.

The authors identified that the rapid elimination of all Plasmodium falciparum parasites from the GMS is a most effective and efficient way to stop the spread of artemisinin resistance and "catalyze political and funding support" to achieve a subregional goal of malaria elimination.

View/download the Malaria Journal pdf here. (384 KB)


Genetic diversity and population structure of Plasmodium vivax in Central China

Liu et al. Malaria Journal 2014, 13:262 

In 2009, China initiated its malaria elimination program, setting the goal of elimination by 2020. Outbreaks of P. vivax in the early 2000’s highlight a major risk of resurgence with this species and the need for diligent surveillance if elimination is to be achieved.

This project led by Jiangsu Institute of Parasitic Diseases, with collaborators from the APMEN Partner Institutions[1] was based in Central China. It assessed the impact of the changing epidemiology of malaria on the local parasite population, including the potential for epidemic expansions and risks of future resurgences. Monitoring changes to the parasite population will help authorities to assess the impact of interventions and make informed decisions about where best to focus elimination efforts.


This work has shown there to be unstable transmission with limited barriers to gene flow between the central provinces. Despite a decline in cases, population diversity remained high, but the reservoirs sustaining this diversity are unclear.  Imported cases may contribute in part as a source of new infections.

For the malaria control program, this highlights a need for continued surveillance to detect imported cases and early warning signs of outbreaks which could lead to a resurgence of P. vivax.

The team concluded that genotyping is a valuable tool to inform authorities of emerging outbreaks, but that further studies are required to identify suitable marker panels for distinguishing local from imported P. vivax cases.

Read the Open Access article in Malaria Journal here.

[1] Australian Army Malaria Institute, Eijkman Institute, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Menzies School of Health Research




NIMPE interview: Vietnam’s malaria elimination goal

In April, a group of University of Queensland (UQ) journalism students visited Vietnam for 10 days as part of the UQ in Vietnam project.

UQ students Anna Hartley and John Bryant interviewed Dr Tran Nguyen Hung, Head of Entomology at the National Institute of Malaria, Parasitology, and Entomology (NIMPE) in Ho Chi Mihn, about his work with the national elimination strategy and APMEN.

Ms Hartley also spoke with APMEN co-coordinator Professor Maxine Whittaker, and Dr Tom Burkot, Orchestrator of VecNet and researcher for the Queensland Tropical Health Alliance in Cairns, Australia. 

Read Anna's full article and listen to her podcast online here.
Read John's article and listen to the podcast of his interview here [English/Vietnamese]

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