Page 60 - University of Pretoria RESEARCH REVIEW 2016
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 Malaria remains a killer on the African continent, resulting in more than
400 000 deaths per year, even though global efforts have for some time
focused on eliminating this infectious disease. Researchers of the University
of Pretoria Institute for Sustainable Malaria Control (UP ISMC), a South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) Collaborating Centre for Malaria Research, have recently made breakthroughs towards malaria elimination.
It is clear that no single approach to sustained malaria
control will lead to its elimination. South Africa, as
part of four frontline countries in southern Africa, is
leading an effort aimed at eliminating the disease by
2018/2020. Innovations, including antimalarial transmission-blocking drugs that can be combined with safe mosquito control and human protection, are key steps toward the eventual elimination of the disease.
Professor Lyn-Marie Birkholtz, who holds the DST-NRF SARChI Chair in Sustainable Malaria Control, heads the Parasite Control Cluster in the Institute and is a Professor in Biochemistry. Her research and that of her group have shown that new antimalarial candidates have the potential to eliminate malaria. The trendsetting nature of the work has led to an invited opinion statement in the leading journal in the field of parasitology, Trends in Parasitology, in 2016.
Professor Birkholtz’s research contributes to knowledge about the interplay between malaria control and eliminating infection by focusing on both the pathogenic and transmission forms of malaria parasites, specifically the most deadly one – Plasmodium falciparum. Birkholtz explains that malaria elimination can only be achieved if symptomatic patients are treated and we get rid of the transmissible forms of the parasite at the same time – this will require a ‘magic bullet’ drug. The discoveries of new molecules that may contribute to eliminating malaria also support a growing drug discovery industry in South Africa, which is an appealing
development for the country.
Related, the work of researchers affiliated to the South African Malaria Transmission-Blocking Consortium,
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