Alyssa Barry-Projects

Alyssa Barry-Projects

Projects

Genomic surveillance of malaria parasite populations and outbreaks

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

We are mapping the distribution and spread of malaria infections in malaria endemic countries 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.

Project resources

2016 Genome technology boosts malaria control efforts

2016 3RRR FM interview: Malaria parasite evolution

Team members 

Abebe Fola, Zahra Razook 

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.

Project resources

2016  Genome technology boosts malaria control efforts

2016  3RRR FM interview: Malaria parasite evolution

Team members

Digjaya Utama, Elijah Martin

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

Digjaya Utama

Understanding host-pathogen interactions in clinical and severe malaria

Uncovering molecular targets of natural immunity to malaria and the host molecules that they interact with may lead to new vaccines and diagnostic tools.

P. falciparum Erythrocyte Membrane Protein 1 (PfEMP1) is a major immune target however extreme genetic diversity amongst these antigens has complicated vaccine development. In order to identify the critical protective antibody targets we have developed a protein microarray approach to investigate antibody responses to large numbers of PfEMP1 variants in parallel.

We used this approach to investigate antibody response patterns in a cohort of young children from PNG to identify targets of protective immunity. We are now investigating the impact of genetic polymorphism in PfEMP1 receptors such as EPCR, CR1 and ICAM1. We are also interested in the involvement of other variant surface antigens in clinical and severe malaria. 

Project resources

2011  ABC Radio Australia interview: Malaria immunity explained

Team member

Digjaya Utama

Novel biomarkers and mechanisms of antimalarial drug resistance

The emergence of resistance to current frontline antimalarial drugs is a major global health emergency that threatens to undermine malaria control programs, reverse progress towards elimination and risks millions of lives.

Through analysis of thousands of P. falciparum genomes, we have discovered novel regions of the genome that may underlie drug resistance. We now aim to identify the gene mutations involved, to discover new drug resistance biomarkers and to understand mechanisms of resistance.

The project employs genomic epidemiology, molecular parasitology and systems biology approaches. Identification and validation of novel biomarkers of resistance will lead to improved surveillance and help optimize strategies to control resistant parasites.

Project resources

2016 Genome technology boosts malaria control efforts

2016 3RRR FM interview: Malaria parasite evolution

Team members

Abebe Fola, Zahra Razook