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Malaria Research

/Anopheles/ is a genus of mosquito involved in the zoonotic transfer of /Plasmodium/ parasite in human hosts.

Opinion   |   Undergraduate Perspective

Disclaimer: All opinions within this LibGuide are those of the student(s), not the Institution. We welcome faculty advisors to work with their students to create and curate resources to support their academic interests.

Towards a Malaria-Free World: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Combatting Malaria

         My limited understanding of malaria comes from reading around 50 scientific papers on the subject, primarily focusing on its impact on communities, particularly in Africa, and the immunology of the disease. I found organic chemistry papers on antimalarial synthesis more challenging, but a recurring theme in the literature is malaria’s significant impact on people. The 2020 WHO report emphasizes the importance of research and global collaboration between researchers, governments, NGOs, and local communities to support affected regions. While Africa is particularly vulnerable, malaria also affects people in tropical climates worldwide, as malaria is called Paludismo in Ecuador. To better understand the situation, I gained insights from Uganda, where I spoke with a clinician named Wefwafwa.

         Building on this foundation, my undergraduate perspective reveals that malaria’s ancient and ongoing success is due to its unique niche in human and mosquito transmission. The Anopheles mosquito, a highly adaptable species, has earned its status as the world’s deadliest creature through Darwinian evolution. This well-adapted life cycle allows the Plasmodium parasites to exploit both mosquitoes and humans, contributing to the persistence and global impact of malaria. As a result, humans, mosquitoes, and Plasmodium parasites have become among the most successful species on Earth, with malaria control most effectively achieved when the host has low concentrations of cytotoxic T cells, which act as a defense against new infections. Additionally, established Plasmodial infections help prevent other strains or species from infecting the host.

         Considering the complex relationship between our immunity, Plasmodium parasites, and antimalarial compounds, it becomes evident that neither mosquito eradication nor medical interventions alone can eliminate Plasmodium species. Instead, a comprehensive and integrative approach to malaria control is necessary, one that involves a holistic and multidisciplinary strategy. By implementing economic systems that reduce transmission, improving healthcare access, and providing effective preventive measures like clean water and indoor facilities, we can better combat malaria in endemic regions. Furthermore, public education and awareness campaigns that promote preventive measures, early diagnosis, and proper treatment are crucial in these areas.

         As we transition from one approach to the next, embracing new technologies such as gene editing for controlling mosquito populations and vaccine development becomes vital for a sustainable solution. Additionally, addressing the potential impact of climate change on malaria spread and adopting adaptive strategies are necessary for future efforts. Local empowerment and capacity building can lead to more sustainable and culturally sensitive solutions, benefiting endemic areas where non-tropical regions remain unaffected by malaria.

         Ultimately, by intertwining public health, environmental management, and social interventions, we can create a world free from malaria. The key is to focus on the interdisciplinary nature of these approaches and emphasize the importance of global collaboration. By doing so, we can work towards a future where malaria is effectively managed and eventually eradicated, improving the lives of millions around the world. I have an optimistic view of the world, this is something we can do and would alleviate a gigantic burden on large territories of Africa.

TLDR; Malaria, a persistent global issue, requires a comprehensive and integrative approach that combines research, global collaboration, and a multidisciplinary strategy. Effective malaria control should incorporate economic systems, healthcare access improvements, preventive measures, public education, and awareness campaigns. Embracing new technologies, addressing climate change, and promoting local empowerment are essential for creating sustainable and culturally sensitive solutions. By focusing on the interdisciplinary nature of these approaches, we can work towards effectively managing and eventually eradicating malaria, ultimately improving millions of lives worldwide.

Uganda: Home of the World

        During the process of researching and collaborating with Wefwafwa, the president of BetaBetaBeta Club Elizabeth Zacharias mentioned April 25th was World Malaria Day. Since that moment, I decided I wanted to put together an event to showcase malaria for our university. It took six weeks of preparation but I was eventually able to organize a screening and a live session with Wefwafwa. I had gathered a team of six honors students and four Starbucks baristas to help run the event. We had close to 100 students attend the event, and we raised $760 for Wefwafwa's Buwanga Way to Health Foundation.

         Wefwafwa purchased the first microscope for his community in Manafwa district, Uganda. This microscope was essential in diagnosis malarial disease in a rural and isolated region of Uganda rather than drive patients to Kampala or hospital. Additionally, Wefwafwa had never presented to an international audience in the US prior to our event and he was overjoyed to be given the opportunity. Since then, I have been working as a member of his organization to organize lessons for the young adults of his community to talk on a variety of subjects including business, health, and religion.

         Organizing an event was a learning process, and having prior experience in filmography and digital media helped give the event color and appeal. Here was the poster:


         Having people to help brainstorm ideas, organize the event, and properly execute were important. However, the main features were to establish a venue and a time as early as possible. This makes subsequent planning go over smoother, as we didn't secure our venue until a week prior to the event and then we lost it and had to take a classroom for a shorter duration. However, this worked out and I'm happy how everything came together.

Video Screened at the Event

Honors Program

         During my Honors Capstone project, I wanted to explore how malaria affects people directly, beyond the antimalarial research I conducted with Dr. Sheridan. I aimed to gain insights from different countries and perspectives. While watching students present their projects, I noticed they hadn’t reached out to external experts for their research. I asked about this and was encouraged by the Honors Director, Dr. Jussaume, to attempt outreach for my project.
         With the goal of promoting global citizenship, Dr. Marino advised me to expand my project into a LibGuide. I started contacting public health programs, institutions, universities, NGOs, governments, and experts from various countries. Despite sending numerous emails, only one person, Andrew Wefwafwa from Mbale, Uganda, responded. We connected on WhatsApp, became good friends, and learned about each other’s worlds, realizing that despite our differences, we both share the same world view—to serve others and follow God's path for us.

Organizing a LibGuide

         A LibGuide is not an easy project to take-on, nonetheless, it provides a place to express every facet of your journey and own the work you put into your project. It also provides a place to share the multiple facets and perspectives on whatever it is you're curious about. Organizing a large amount of information was very difficult, and even more time-consuming but the result was a finely tuned and crafted expression of all the work I put into my curiosity. It allows readers from an array of backgrounds to read what they find interesting and invites them to learn more about the topic. Beware, it's like writing a gigantic essay, and requires a ton of forethought and feedback to successfully complete.

         This LibGuide would not have come together without the weekly meetings with Dr. Moon in the Library, where we discussed different perspectives and arrangements of the information presented here. I hope that this LibGuide serves as a model for future students who wish to present their larger ideas in one place and contribute to a larger academic community. At the time of writing, this is only the fourth student created LibGuide, carefully crafted with the feedback from more than a dozen people.

Thank you Dr. Moon, for a wonderful semester, and a place to store all my work and ideas for all to share in.

Faculty contributor(s)

  • Dr. Moon, who met with me weekly to discuss the progression of the LibGuide and exercised extreme patience with me.
  • Dr. Marino, who encouraged me to take my project to a shared platform to share with others.
  • Dr. Jussaume, who encouraged the World Malaria Day event and discussing malaria on a global and cultural level.
  • Dr. Sheridan, who was instrumental in initiating this entire project with antimalarial research.
  • Dr. Harris, who helped me format the LibGuide to best suit audiences who are completing research.
  • Dr. Rhodes, who acted as my second reader and helped me research the historical background of malaria.
  • Dr. Jimenez, who helped read and review my content for clarity and improved my ideas and presentation of the material.

Other contributor

  • Andrew Wefwafwa, a good friend and a wonderful physician living in Uganda who has a great sense of humor and acts with upmost selflessness to help others and to give more than he receives.
  • Elizabeth Zacharias, for mentioning World Malaria Day and helping fund the Uganda: Home of the World event.