NIAID awards $9.1 million for DO-led anti-malaria project in Malawi
With the help of a $9.1 million federal grant, longtime malaria investigator Terrie E. Taylor, DO, is leading a molecular research team formed to halt the spread of malaria in the east African republic of Malawi.
Dr. Taylor’s investigation is one of 10 new anti-malaria projects worldwide funded this summer by the National Institute of Allergy and Infection Diseases.
Each year, malaria kills an estimated 1 million Africans, 90% of whom are children, whose fragile immune systems make them especially vulnerable to the disease. A distinguished professor of internal medicine at the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine in East Lansing, Dr. Taylor has been working in Blantyre, Malawi, since 1987. She spends half the year there, researching the disease and treating patients, and the other half in East Lansing, recording her findings and teaching.
Her achievements include helping to devise the Blantyre Coma Scale, which scores the severity of the coma caused by malaria.
For her latest project, Dr. Taylor’s team will develop a molecular parasitology capacity in Blantyre. “We’re primarily interested in the malaria parasite, but we will have the capacity to look at the mosquito vector and the human host,” says Dr. Taylor, one of the AOA’s Great Pioneers in Osteopathic Medicine (PDF). “These molecular techniques will allow us to look in very fine detail at strains of parasites that are that are particularly virulent and mosquitoes that are especially effective as transmitters of infection.”
AOA nominates Dr. Taylor for award
The AOA has nominated Terrie E. Taylor, DO, for the American Medical Association Foundation’s Dr. Nathan Davis International Award in Medicine. The award honors physicians for outstanding international service. To be eligible, physicians must have “improved dramatically” medical practice, medical education or medical research outside the United States.
Among Dr. Taylor’s accomplishments in her long career as a malaria researcher is establishing a malaria clinic in Malawi and bringing the first magnetic resonance imaging unit to the African republic, the AOA noted on her nomination form.
The AMA Foundation will present the award on March 21, 2011, in Washington, D.C.
During the seven-year project, which began in September, Dr. Taylor and her team will focus their work on highland, lowland and urban settings in Malawi. “Malaria behaves differently in different areas,” she says. The year-round warm temperatures in lowland rural areas, for example, are conducive to malarial anemia. Whereas the seasonal transmission in the cooler highland settings produces more cases of the deadlier cerebral malaria. “It’s very unlikely that there will be a universal solution or set of solutions to the problem of controlling malaria,” Dr. Taylor says.
One of Dr. Taylor’s key interests is to learn where the malaria parasite lingers during the dry, nonbreeding season, which runs July through December. “Is it primarily in younger or older human hosts, and are they mainly in cities or rural areas?” she asks. “If we can find that out and treat the dry-season reservoir of infection, we might be able to diminish transmissions significantly.”