Science Without Borders
Geneticist Dyann Wirth:
Understanding the DNA of Parasites
Dyann Wirth Probes Parasites
Geneticist Wirth wants to wipe out malaria by overcoming a parasite's drug resistance.
Are parasitic protozoans
Infect humans and mosquitoes
How do Plasmodia survive antimalarial medicines?
Answer: Genetic adaptation
DNA: altered over time by adaptation to many events
Most widespread and dangerous
Accounts for 80% of human malarial infections and 90% of deaths
Four species of Plasmodium parasite cause malaria in humans
How can scientists pinpoint what makes Plasmodium falciparum so deadly?
Exploring Parasite Secrets
Scientists study genetic variation:
Patterns of SNPs
Why do scientists study more than one genome?
What is the name for these DNA patterns?
Give an example of a SNP.
Global Team Science
Exploration begins with patient volunteers from malaria clinics on 3 continents
Plasmodia Parasites in Human Blood
Malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum growing inside human red blood cells
Wirth's method identifies
Differences and commonalities
Genetic adaptation across populations
Promising targets for intervention
The Human Touch
Human activity can spread drug resistance
How do humans help mosquitoes spread resistance across extremely wide geographic areas?
What human-made environments make great breeding sites for mosquito larvae?
The MIDAS Touch
Model of Infectious Disease Agent Study
Brings together international network of scientists from different fields
Simulates infectious disease outbreaks
Identifies most effective interventions
Prepares public health experts to control infectious disease disasters before they happen
How might knowledge that Wirth and her team have gained about Plasmodium DNA be used to develop an early warning system for malaria drug resistance?