Students’ Field Research Project on Malaria: Introduction
This article talks about a medical research experience involving Louis-Georges Roumy1, Niccolò Stomeo1, Abu Elamin1 Khattab Ayman 2 and Seppo Meri.1,2
1 Humanitas Institute, Milan, Italy
2 University of Helsinki, Finland
Vector Control: The final step towards Malaria Eradication?
Written by Roumy Louis-Georges, Stomeo Niccolò, Elamin Abu, Hunimed Students
As 2nd year Medical students, we were given the opportunity to take part in the “3D screen project” in order to obtain a solid grasp of what field research truly meant. Still uncertain of which path we would take in our medical career, we are convinced that first hand experience is crucial. We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to assist in an intriguing project dealing with the malarial endemic in Tanzania. From the time we spent assisting the coordination of activities on site, we got to see the challenges that scientists face beyond theoretical research. Overall the biggest challenge we faced was shaping the protocol according to the local reality. All in all our motivation stemmed from facing the unknown, both as future scientists and as human beings.
Malaria is a disease caused by Plasmodium, a protozoan parasite. Amongst the 100 species of Plasmodium, only 4 are pathogenic (in humans) (P. vivax, P. ovale, P. malariae and P. falciparum). Until recent years P. falciparum, the most relevant species, has accounted for up to a million deaths annually in tropical and subtropical areas. This parasitic infection can lead to anaemia, respiratory problems and cerebral malaria: which is an occlusion of brain capillaries that can result in coma, disabilities and death. Malaria has a complex parasitic life cycle that involves 2 hosts: 1) female Anopheles mosquito and 2) humans. The female Anopheles is necessary for the survival, development and transmission of the parasite. Only when the parasite completes its life cycle within the mosquitoes’ salivary glands it will become infectious to humans. The Anopheles mosquito needs a blood meal for the development of its eggs.
The WHO has estimated that malaria has caused 214 million clinical episodes and 438.000 deaths in 2015. It has been calculated that more than 40% of the world’s population lives in high risk areas. Amongst those, sub-Saharan Africa is most heavily affected as this region accounts for 89% of malaria cases and 91% of malaria deaths. Furthermore the disease is a major obstacle to the development of these countries. Social development is hindered and the economic burden of dealing with malaria is preventing stable economic growth.
Want to know more about malaria and its solutions?
In the next articles you will read about:
- Malaria – A modern plague
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- A viable approach to malarial eradication