ennis E. Kyle is the new director of the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases and the Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Antiparasitic Drug Discovery. He discusses research into malaria and other diseases.
What do we mean by “tropical and emerging diseases”?
These are human and animal diseases mostly caused by eukaryotic parasites—either single-cell or multi-cellular worms. Most of these occur in the tropics. These diseases have been around for a long time, but they’ve not received the sort of attention that cancer and diabetes and Alzheimer’s have and so have been comparatively neglected. People have not had funds to work on new drugs or diagnostics or vaccines. We are probably the largest center in the U.S. that’s working in this area. All 25 of the investigators that lead groups in our center are focused on parasites that cause human and animal diseases. If these diseases have been around a long time, why are they called “emerging”?
They are re-emerging due to global warming. Diseases that had been found mainly in the tropics are appearing more and more in temperate climate zones. Malaria was once endemic in the U.S. all the way up the East Coast. We got rid of it, but there are chances that this deadly disease could come back. The mosquito vectors are still here. Some of these diseases continue to emerge as new pathogens. Take, for example, the so-called brain-eating amoeba (Naegleria fowleri) that I work on. They’re found in warm water. We are seeing more people getting infected, and it’s 98 percent fatal.
We’re making advances in three areas at the center. Our center is leading efforts internationally to develop new ways to understand the biology of these parasites, from basic molecular biology to developing this knowledge into applied tools. That’s key in trying to decide how you attack it with a drug or a vaccine. Another area is drug development, which is one of my specialties. Until recently, there was no way to test for the drugs that killed malaria parasites in the liver. The mosquito bites and injects the
Are we making progress in prevention or treatment?
Published on Mar 30, 2017