London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Malaria Centre

Density and diversity of gametocytes in high- and low-burden disease areas, in Senegal

26 June 2018
MAlaria Research CApacity Development (MARCAD) – visiting scientist


The MARCAD consortium in West and Central Africa is a partnership of institutions sponsored by the Wellcome Trust, working in concert with the Department of International Development (DFID) and the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA).

MARCAD’s objective are to strengthen the quality of research on malaria by training African scientists who will be the future leaders in research, able to take on the new challenges of the fight against malaria aimed at its elimination.

As part of this consortium, some of the research institutions in Africa have formed collaborations with LSHTM. For example, LSHTM is collaborating with the lead institution, University Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD), Senegal. Dr. Aminata Colle Lo, from UCAD, came to visit LSHTM and spoke with Chris Drakeley, who is the LSHTM collaborator on Aminata’s project.

We caught up with Aminata to find out more about her project and MARCAD.


Could you please introduce yourself?

I’m Aminata and I am currently on my second post-doc, which is part of the MARCAD programme. I am based in UCAD, in Senegal, and I have been working on the MARCAD programme since April 2017.

Before starting my post-doctoral work, I obtained my PhD from UCAD in molecular biology and seasonal malaria chemoprevention. My PhD co-supervisor was Colin Sutherland, so I have actually visited LSHTM before. I have a Masters from the Faculty of Science and a Masters from the Department of Parasitology from UCAD, which is also where I got my PhD.

Could you tell us about your MARCAD research project?

My research looks at the density and diversity of gametocytes in high- and low-burden disease areas, to explore the role gametocytes play in malaria transmission.

I have two project sites in Senegal: in the central region where malaria is low, and in the south of Senegal where it is endemic.

Research like this is important because if we are to improve our efforts to eliminate malaria, we need to understand how we can eliminate transmission. 

Why are you looking at gametocytes?

There are lots of intervention strategies, which are working, but there is still high prevalence in some areas. In order to transmit malaria you need the gametocyte, so this is what I am focusing on.

Also, one of the most important factors of transmission are asymptomatic patients, so my project will specifically focus on gametocytes from patients with malaria but who do not show any malaria symptoms.

How do you identify malaria in patients who are asymptomatic?

Firstly, we identify potential populations of patients by liaising with the District Medical Officers. We then test for the malaria parasite in these populations by using slides and rapid diagnostic tests. Finally, we use RT-PCR to identify the gametocytes.

Is there anything else you would like to mention?

I am very happy and grateful to be involved in this project, which gives African scientists the opportunity to do this type of research; it would be great to renew and extend the programme to keep this project going. I would like to thank the funders and all the project staff involved.