London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Malaria Centre

New publication: understanding a monkey malaria parasite that infects humans

13 October 2017
Blog | Publication

Redley Yambun, UMS research assistant, collects a blood sample to test for malaria in Kampong Paradason, Kudat. Credit LSHTM.


Researchers at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) have published a paper in the journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases that discusses the use of molecular techniques to show the genetic relationship between malaria parasites collected from mosquitoes, monkeys and human patients. This study contributes to understanding of Plasmodium knowlesi, a type of monkey malaria carried by macaques, which is now the main cause of human malaria in Sabah.




The study was conducted as part of the MONKEYBAR project, an international multi-disciplinary research project on the biological, environmental and social risk factors for Plasmodium knowlesi, and was a five-year collaboration based at the UMS.


Prof Zainal Arifin, Dean of Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, said, “the Monkeybar project has contributed greatly to understanding the risk factors and helping design new control strategies for P. knowlesi malaria, especially in Sabah. Researchers have identified the main type of mosquito carrying this disease, investigated the ecology and biology of the mosquito, used GPS technology to track people and macaques, described the first use of drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) for epidemiology and conducted the largest ever survey for this type of malaria, testing over 12,000 people. This latest paper, led by Prof Chua Tock Hing traces the spread of malaria between monkeys, mosquitoes and people in Sabah.”


Tommy Rowel Abidin, UMS research assistant, and Kimberly Fornace from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine set up a drone for macaque surveys in Kudat. Credit LSHTM.


“This project has led important findings for infectious disease research as well as established strong links between universities in Malaysia, the UK and other countries” said Professor Chris Drakeley, a professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the principle investigator of this project. “We hope that this will lead to continued work at the Universiti Malaysia Sabah and look forward to more of the research findings coming out.”


During the course of this project, over a dozen scientific papers were published in international journals, eight postgraduate students –including four Malaysian postgraduate students at UMS – were funded and an additional 15 international students from the UK and Australia completed overseas placements in Universiti Malaysia Sabah and the Philippines.

Final project meeting at the Faculty, Prof Dr. Zainal Arifin (2nd from left), Prof Chris Drakeley (1st on left). Credit LSHTM.




The partnership was comprised of institutes in Malaysia, the United Kingdom, the Philippines and Australia, including the Universiti Malaysia Sabah, University of Malaya, Jabatan Kesihatan Negeri Sabah, Infectious Diseases Society Kota Kinabalu, Jabatan Hidupan Liar Sabah, Danau Girang Field Centre, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (UK), Glasgow University (UK), Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (UK) and Menzies School of Health Research (Australia).