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London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Malaria Centre

Seminar | Maintenance of the parasite reservoir in Ghana

Friday 15 June 2018, 11:00
Manson Lecture Theatre, Keppel Street
Malaria Centre Seminar

Maintenance of the parasite reservoir in Ghana: parasite diversity and the epidemiology of Plasmodium falciparum var genes


In West Africa, malaria control is impeded by the large reservoir of asymptomatic Plasmodium falciparum infections in the human population. In areas of seasonal malaria transmission, infections that comprise the P. falciparum reservoir persist throughout the dry season, when transmission declines. Subsequently, these infections serve to fuel transmission during the next wet season when the mosquito population emerges.

PfEMP1 is encoded by the var multigene family and is a major target of naturally acquired immunity. Variation in PfEMP1 / var genes is able to prolong duration of infection in the human host by immune evasion and is critical in areas where transmission is seasonal.

Using an age-stratified longitudinal cohort study design, we surveyed individuals with asymptomatic P. falciparum infections to describe the seasonal genetic epidemiology of P. falciparum var genes and examine the role that parasite diversity plays in sustaining the parasite reservoir of infection in endemic areas. We addressed the age-specific and temporal changes in var diversity and population structure to examine var complexity at the individual and population level in the asymptomatic reservoir across all ages. Using computational experiments, we also explore the implications of the complexity of the var system for the development of immunity to P. falciparum blood stages. 


Speaker: Shazia Ruybal-Pesántez, University of Melbourne

Chair: Colin Sutherland

Date: 15 June 2018

Time: 11:00 - 12:00

Venue: Manson Lecture Theatre, Keppel Street


Shazia Ruybal-Pesántez is a final year PhD candidate in Professor Karen Day’s Research Group at the Bio21 Molecular Science and Biotechnology Institute/School of BioSciences, University of Melbourne in Australia. Her PhD training has involved genomic epidemiology, population genetics and high-throughput sequencing to examine field isolates collected during a large-scale population-based field study conducted in Ghana. Specifically, during her PhD she has examined the genetic epidemiology of the Plasmodium falciparum reservoir of infection in Bongo District, Ghana through the lens of parasite diversity. Prior to commencing her PhD she worked as a Research Assistant at the New York University School of Medicine in USA working in Malaria Population Genetics.