Professor Ivo Mueller


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Division: Infection and Immunity

Research Overview

Despite impressive recent gains in the global fight to control malaria, the disease continues to exert a major burden to people in endemic countries.

To date it is estimated that 2.4 and 2.8 million people worldwide are at risk of contracting Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax, respectively.

Our lab and the Barcelona Centre of International Health Research, Spain (where I hold a joint appointment as a Research Professor), aims to contribute to further, sustainable gains in our fight against malaria. We are conducting population-based malaria studies that are both scientifically excellent and locally relevant for the control and eventual elimination of malaria from affected populations in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.

The population-based malaria research program of our group aims to bridge from basic Plasmodium biology to clinical development of new interventions to control and eventually eliminate malaria. To that effect the research is focused around three main ‘themes’:

  1. the comparative biology of P. falciparum and P. vivax host-parasite interactions;
  2. the (clinical) epidemiology and intervention research in Papua New Guinea; and
  3. evaluation of the impact of intensified malaria control programs on malaria burden and host-vector-parasite interaction.

Implementing this program means drawing on diverse scientific disciplines ranging from molecular parasitology, host genetic adaptations and immune responses, clinical, epidemiological and population-based research, curative and preventative interventions to research on health systems, monitoring and evaluation, and social aspects of malaria. A special focus lies on studying the P. vivax host-parasite interaction and our group is recognised as one of the best in studying the epidemiology of P. vivax.

Most of this research is a direct continuation of the broad malaria research program I established while working for 9 years at the Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research. Answering complex problems regarding host-vector-parasite interactions requires highly integrated, multidisciplinary approaches. Our group thus maintains an extensive and highly productive collaborative network with research groups in Papua New Guinea, Australia, Europe, US and the Asia-Pacific region.

Research Interests

On host-parasite interaction:

  • Differential patterns of natural acquisition of immunity to P. falciparum and P. vivax in Papua New Guinea (PNG) population
  • Red blood cell polymorphisms and the association with protection against P. vivax malaria
  • The molecular epidemiology of P. falciparum and P. vivax in PNG children
  • Studies on the epidemiology of P. falciparum and P. vivax gametocytes and their association with difference in transmission potential
  • Development of novel approaches to the analysis of longitudinal cohort with competing risk of P. falciparum and P. vivax infection and disease
  • Evolution of chloroquine and sulfadoxine–pyrimethamine (SP) resistant P. vivax in Papua New Guinea.

On clinical epidemiology:

  • Trials of intermittent preventative treatment for the prevention of malaria and anaemia in infants (IPTi) and pregnant mothers (IPTp)
  • Studies on the pharmacology and efficacy of novel antimalarial drug treatment in children and pregnant mothers
  • Aetiology and pathology of severe malaria in Melanesian children

On monitoring impact of national control program on host-parasite-vector interaction

  • Seven-year study on effect of intensified control on burden of malaria infection and disease, transmission and immune acquisition in PNG and Solomon Islands (NIH ICEMR project in South West Pacific)
  • Monitoring and evaluating the impact of the Papua New Guinea National Malaria Control program

Selected Publications

  1. Laman M, Manning L Hwaihanje I, Vince J, Aipit S, Mare T, Warrel J, Karunajeewa H, Siba P, Mueller I, Davis, TME, 2010. Lumbar puncture in children from an area of malaria endemicity who present with a febrile seizure. Clinical Infectious Disease 51, 534-40. PMID: 20662714
  2. Senn N, Maraga S, Sie A, Rogerson SJ, Reeder JC, Siba P, Mueller I, 2010. Population Hemoglobin Mean and Anemia Prevalence in Papua New Guinea: New Metrics for Defining Malaria Endemicity? PLoS One e9375. PMID: 20195369
  3. Lin E, Kiniboro B, Gray L, Dobbie S, Robinson L, Laumea A, Schöpflin S, Stanisic D, Betuela I, Siba P, Felger I, Schofield L, Zimmerman P, Mueller I, 2010. Differential patterns of infection and disease with P. falciparum and P. vivax in young Papua New Guinean children. PLoS One 5(2): e9047. PMID: 20140220
  4. Mueller I, Galinski MR, Baird JK, Carlton JM, Kochar DK, Alonso PL, del Portillo HA. Key gaps in the knowledge of Plasmodium vivax, a neglected human malaria parasite. Lancet Infect Dis. 2009 Sep;9(9):555-66. Review. PMID: 19695492
  5. Robinson LJ, D'Ombrain MC, Stanisic DI, Taraika J, Bernard N, Richards JS, Beeson JG, Tavul L, Michon P, Mueller I, Schofield L. Cellular tumor necrosis factor, gamma interferon, and interleukin-6 responses as correlates of immunity and risk of clinical Plasmodium falciparum malaria in children from Papua New Guinea. Infect Immun. 2009 Jul;77(7):3033-43. PMID: 19380468
  6. Koepfli C, Mueller I, Marfurt J, Goroti M, Sie A, Oa O, Genton B, Beck HP, Felger I. Evaluation of Plasmodium vivax genotyping markers for molecular monitoring in clinical trials. J Infect Dis. 2009 Apr 1;199(7):1074-80. PMID: 19275476
  7. Genton B, D’Acremont V, Rare L, Baea K, Reeder JC, Alpers MP, Müller I, 2008. Plasmodium vivax and mixed infections are associated with severe malaria in children: a prospective cohort study from Papua New Guinea. PLoS Medicine 5(6): e127. PMID: 18563961
  8. Karunajeewa HA, Mueller I, Senn M, Lin E, Law I, Gomorrai PS, Oa O, Griffin S, Kotab K, Suano P, Tarongka N, Ura A, Lautu D, Page-Sharp M, Wong R, Salman S, Siba P, Ilett KF, Davis TM. A trial of combination antimalarial therapies in children from Papua New Guinea. N Engl J Med. 2008 Dec 11;359(24):2545-57. PMID: 19064624
  9. King CL, Michon P, Shakri AR, Marcotty A, Stanisic D, Zimmerman PA, Cole-Tobian JL, Mueller I, Chitnis CE. Naturally acquired Duffy-binding protein-specific binding inhibitory antibodies confer protection from blood-stage Plasmodium vivax infection. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Jun 17;105(24):8363-8. PMID: 18523022
  10. Michon P, Cole-Tobian JL, Dabod E, Schoepflin S, Igu J, Susapu M, Tarongka N, Zimmerman PA, Reeder JC, Beeson JG, Schofield L, King CL, Mueller I. The risk of malarial infections and disease in Papua New Guinean children. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2007 Jun;76(6):997-1008. PMID: 17556601

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Current Laboratory Members

Faculty Member: Ivo Mueller, MSc PhD Basel

Post-doctoral fellow: Celine Barnadas, PhD Lyon

Post-doctoral fellow: Suparat Phuanukoonnon, PhD Queensland

Research Officer: Cristian Koepfli, PhD Basel

Research Assistant: Raksmei Keo, BAppSc RMIT

Postdoctoral Fellow: Connie Li Wai Suen, BSc(Hons) PhD LaTrobe

PhD student: Andreea Waltmann, BA Monash BSc(Hons) Monash

Honours student: Elisheba Malau