Grand Challenge Explorations Grant Recipient
Allen School Assistant Research Professor Dr. Thumbi Mwangi is the recipient of a recent Grand Challenge Explorations grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. His project, titled Integrated Control of Syndemic Diseases: Malaria, East Coast Fever, and Worms, will test whether treatment of parasitic helminth infections reduces the severity of co-occurring parasitic diseases malaria and East Coast Fever (ECF), leading causes of morbidity and mortality in humans and cattle, respectively, in sub-Saharan Africa. This work will be conducted in Kenya in collaboration with the Kenya Medical Research Institute.
The protozoan parasites that cause malaria in humans (mainly Plasmodium falciparum) and ECF in cattle (Theileria parva) share large geographical overlap with other endemic diseases, including soil-transmitted helminths, leading to frequent co-infections. Evidence suggests that helminth co-infection may exacerbate the negative outcomes of malaria and ECF, but if and how the pathogens interact to affect disease impact is not well understood. Dr. Mwangi’s study will target the easier and cheaper to control co-infecting worm pathogen with antihelmintic drugs as a means to significantly decrease the negative impact of the more virulent and difficult to treat pathogens P.falciparum and T.parva, as well as evaluate immunological responses (cytokine profiles) associated with each co-infection to investigate mechanisms of interactions.