Thursday, March 21, 2013

Seven UMS lecturers to join five-year study on monkey bar


Kota Kinabalu: Seven senior lecturers from Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) have been appointed as research collaborators for a five-year project which will focus on research sites in Sabah and Palawan Island, the Philippines to determine the risk factors for the spread of Plasmodium knowlesi malaria in humans. 

The research project will comprise two phases that will cover clinical monitoring of the number of cases of P. knowlesi together with a case control study in Sabah and large scale epidemiological survey, mathematical model development and analysis. 

The research consortium grant for this project has been awarded under the call "Environmental and Social Ecology of Human Infectious Diseases (ESEI)." 

ESEI is a joint initiative between the UK Medical Research Council (MRC), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBRSRC) as part of the Living with Environmental Change programme. 

A UMS statement said Sabah has the highest number of cases of Plasmodium knowlesi malaria, also known as monkey bar, in South East Asia, as evidenced by the recent description of a significant cluster of human P. knowlesi in the Kudat district. 

According to Dr B Singh from Malaria Research Centre, Faculty of Medicine and Health, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, the natural host for P. knowlesi in Malaysia are long-tailed macaques, pig-tailed macaques and banded leaf monkeys. 

These two species of macaques are the most common non-human primate species found in Malaysia and have been noted to harbour five species of plasmodium. 

In his article 'Plasmodium knowlesi in Malaysia, Dr Singh said human can acquire knowlesi malaria when they visit the forest habitat of macaques and the mosquito vectors, while the vast majority of knowlesi malaria cases occur in adults. 

The report said, plasmodium knowlesi, a simian malaria parasite, is now recognised as the fifth cause of human malaria and can lead to fatal infections in human. 

P. knowlesi was first isolated in 1931 from a long-tailed macaque imported to India from Singapore, while the early experiments were mainly conducted by Knowles and Das Gupta. 

The two observed that P. knowlesi causes symptomatic and low level parasitaemia in its natural host, the long-tailed macaque, but is lethal for Indian rhesus macaques, the report said. 

Meanwhile, a two-day international malaria symposium will be held in Kota Kinabalu on April 16 and 17, featuring internationally renowned prominent malaria scientists. 

According to UMS, the symposium was to provide a forum for discussion about the latest findings on malaria research as well as to foster co-operation among malariologists and hopefully lead to future collaborative research. 


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