Malaria remains one of the most devastating diseases worldwide, with almost 40% of the world’s population (WHO) living under the constant risk of malaria infections. This is particularly true for sub-Saharan Africa where malaria is a major public health, socio-economic and developmental challenge faced by many of the world’s poorest countries. Unlike other infectious diseases like HIV or TB, malaria is a very complex disease requiring the interplay between three biological organisms: the human host, >30 species of Anopheles mosquitoes acting as vectors for the parasite, as well as 5 species of Plasmodium parasites that cause the disease. These parasites are highly effective in infecting human red blood cells and in these states then cause pathogenesis that could result in death. Malaria control programmes are threatened by various factors, the most alarming of which is the rapid development of drug- and insecticide-resistant forms of the malaria parasite and the mosquito vector, respectively. We therefore continually need to devise innovative strategies to combat the disease.
As part of the University of Pretoria Centre for Sustainable Malaria Control, our lab is interested in the most deadly of all malaria parasites, Plasmodium falciparum. We have research interest in the physiology, biochemistry and pharmacology of malaria parasites as related to biochemical distinctions between the malaria parasite and the human host, which are exploitable for the design of novel antimalarial chemotherapeuticals that can be used in a sustainable fashion.
Research Leader - Prof L Birkholtz
Emeritus professor - Prof AI Louw
Co-Investigator - Dr J Niemand