Developing drugs to block malaria transmission

Project Type

PhD and Graduate Research Masters

Project details

The malaria parasite has a complex lifecycle that consists of stages within both the human host and the mosquito vector. Transmission of the parasite from the blood of the human to the mosquito relies on the formation of a specialised lifecycle stage called the gametocyte. Separate male and female gametocytes are produced within the host and are the only stage that can be taken up by a feeding mosquito and undergo fertilisation. Only ~10% of the parasite population commit to gametocyte development representing a bottle neck in the lifecycle and making this stage an attractive drug target.

Using a combination of in vitro experiments and analysis of ex vivo samples from experimental malaria infection studies, we will identify drugs that block gametocyte development and transmission.

About our research group

The McCarthy laboratory is interested in understanding the unique biology of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, with a particular focus on virulence and transmission. In our studies we use a combination of clinical and lab-based research to holistically investigate mechanisms of malaria disease and transmission. We use molecular and cellular biology tools such as CRISPR gene editing, proteomics, transcript analysis and super resolution microscopy to define the molecular players driving gametocyte development and transmission.

This in vitro work is complimented by the ex vivo examination of samples from experimental human malaria infection studies, which are focused on identifying and confirming the activity of candidate transmission blocking drugs and vaccines. This combined in vitro and in vivo approach to understanding the biology underpinning virulence and transmission will help speed up the development of new drugs and vaccines to combat this debilitating disease.

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