Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute Holds Inaugural Scientific Conference
The recently established Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute is holding its inaugural scientific conference to explore new means of understanding and eradicating the deadly disease that kills nearly two million people each year worldwide. The three-day conference, "Malaria: Progress, Problems, and Plans in the Genomic Era," will be held January 27-29, 2002, at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The multidisciplinary conference will discuss plasmodium biology and genomics, as well as the pathogenesis of malaria. The event is co-sponsored by the Ellison Medical Foundation. Through the conference, the Malaria Research Institute hopes to share information with basic scientists and encourage collaborative efforts in the study of prevention, treatment, and control of malaria.
"When the Malaria Research Institute was established at the School, we wanted to take a new approach to conquering the global scourge of malaria--a scientific approach where we let the data lead us in new appropriate directions," says Diane Griffin , MD, PhD, who oversees the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute. "Our goal is to bring together a critical mass of experts from around the world to examine malaria with a new perspective and as a basic science initiative. This conference is the first step in our long-term mission," explains Dr. Griffin, who is also professor and chair of the W. Harry Feinstone Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Malaria is an infection caused by a protozoan parasite from the genus Plasmodium, of which four separate species are known to infect humans. Mosquitoes ingest the parasite when they draw blood from an infected person. The parasite lives and grows inside the mosquito and is then spread to other people whenever the mosquito takes another blood meal.
The disease is often painful and sometimes deadly. Once a person is infected, the parasite attacks the liver and destroys the red blood cells, causing them to stick to the sides of the blood vessels where they eventually block the capillaries to the brain and other organs. If not treated promptly, severe infection may lead to coma, anemia, renal failure, convulsions, and death. Some medications are available to treat the malaria infection, but the parasites are now increasingly resistant to current drug therapies. Furthermore, the mosquitoes that transmit the disease are becoming increasing resistant to the chemicals used to control them.
It is estimated that a child is killed by malaria every 30 seconds. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), between 300 million and 500 million people are infected with malaria each year, especially in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Malaria is not limited to developing nations. The Centers for Disease Control says there are between 1,600 to 2,000 people with malaria in the United States annually, but experts suspect another 2,000 cases remain unreported each year.