Alyssa Barry-Projects

Alyssa Barry-Projects

Projects

Mapping malaria transmission patterns in the Pacific region

With many countries scaling up their malaria control efforts and attempting elimination there is an urgent need for molecular studies to map parasite transmission. This knowledge could be used to deploy resources appropriately and to reduce the risk of imported infections.

We are measuring population structure and gene flow in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands to provide insight into the spatial and temporal patterns of transmission, and a basis upon which to identify the origins of outbreaks in eliminating areas.

The research will facilitate malaria control and elimination efforts in the region by identifying regions where targeted control will be most effective.

Team member: Gabrielle (Abby) Harrison

Understanding the roles of polymorphism in leading malaria vaccine candidates

This project aims to advance our understanding of the function of different parasite antigens and provide critical data for their development as vaccine candidates.

Sequence data from a large number of P. falciparum and P. vivax isolates is being generated to measure genetic diversity and signatures of natural selection, followed by 3D protein modeling and in vitro assays to gain insight into the functional implications of polymorphism.

In addition, we are investigating samples from longitudinal cohorts of children to identify correlates of immunity and parasite genetic determinants of immune escape. The resulting information will be used in the development of parasite antigens as vaccine candidates and to maximize their ability to target all strains.

Team member: Dr Alicia Arnott

Defining correlates of naturally acquired immunity to severe malaria

Humans that are constantly exposed to malaria eventually develop immunity against all of the clinical symptoms of the disease. Uncovering molecular targets of this immunity may lead to a malaria vaccine and new diagnostic tools for monitoring immunity in human populations.

Antibodies against the major surface antigen of Plasmodium falciparum, known as Erythrocyte Membrane Protein 1 (PfEMP1) are protective against severe disease however there are many different variants of this protein expressed by individual parasite clones, and each parasite clone has a unique repertoire of PfEMP1 variants. In order to identify the critical protective antibody responses we have developed a protein microarray approach to investigate antibody responses to large numbers of PfEMP1 variants in parallel.

We are using this approach to investigate antibody response patterns in a cohort of young children from Papua New Guinea to identify correlates of protection against severe malaria.

Team member: Sofonias Tessema