Malaria experts to unveil top-flight research during international conference

Some of the world’s leading authorities on tropical diseases and parasitic infections will gather for an international conference at The University of Nottingham to discuss the latest breakthroughs in research and treatments.

The combined British Society for Parasitology Spring Meeting and the international Malaria Meeting, being held at University Park from April 3 to April 6, will mark the first unveiling of studies into a range of topics, including anti-parasite drugs, parasite genomics, fish and wildlife parasites and population genetics.

The meeting has been organised by the University’s Parasite Biology and Immunogenetics research group in the School of Biology. Preparations for the event come at a time when the World Health Organisation is warning of an increased risk of some tropical diseases, including malaria and dengue fever, in tsunami-affected areas in Southeast Asia and a scaling-up of prevention activities to avert outbreaks.

Most affected countries in the region hit by the tsunami are endemic for dengue fever and malaria. With the onset of the rainy season, particularly in Indonesia and Sri Lanka, a rise in the cases can be expected at this time of the year. However, an increase in stagnant water in some areas — which provide an ideal breeding ground for some disease-carrying mosquitoes — could also potentially lead to severe public health problems.

Among the top speakers at the Malaria Meeting will be Professor Nick White, an internationally-renowned expert from the Wellcome Trust team based in Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand, who will deliver a talk on the subject of the pathophysiology of malaria.

The meeting will also include the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene special symposium on malaria in pregnancy. Pregnancy reduces immunity to malaria and up to 200,000 newborn infant deaths are caused by the disease every year in Africa.

Among the other topical subjects being discussed at the meeting will be fish parasitology. Recent news reports have told how parasites such as the worm Gyrodactylus salaris could threaten salmon stocks in Scotland’s River Tweed if it spreads to the UK from Scandanavia and Europe, where it has already caused widespread devastation.

Other sessions will look at immunomodulation by parasites, where parasites affect the immune system to provide protection against diseases including allergies and asthma — an effect that has been observed in widespread parts of the undeveloped world. Researchers are now studying how parasites affect the outcome of other diseases such as HIV, malaria and TB.

The meeting is expected to host 350–400 delegates from all over the world, including Africa, the Middle East, the US, Australia, Uganda, Kenya, Thailand and South Africa. Running for the duration of the meeting will be a biotech fair where companies can showcase their latest products, for example, lab-based equipment to delegates. Among the top sponsors of the event are Elsevier, Serotec, Biorad and SLS but the organisers are currently seeking companies, including those local to Nottingham, that would be willing to offer their support for the meeting.

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