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Biomarkers in Malaria

An individual infected with malaria parasites carries various biochemical molecules, some unique and not found in uninfected individuals, some not unique but significantly more abundant in certain forms of the infection; such molecules are known as ‘biomarkers’. While many biomarkers have been described in cancer research, where some have already a place in routine patient care, the field is still in its infancy for malaria. The study of biomarkers has been boosted in recent years by major technological advances, such as SELDI-mass spectrometry and the data from various ‘-omics’, but the flurry of publications shows that this is still ‘looking for a needle in a haystack’.  

The detection in patient bodily fluids of parasite-related biomarkers, that is molecules produced by the parasite at different stages of its life cycle, could help improving diagnostics; the detection of mosquito-related biomarkers could be used to measure exposure in the context of epidemiological studies.  By far the most important area of research is the detection of host-related biomarkers, produced by the host in response to the infection or the disease process. The identification of biomarkers that can distinguish between different forms of the disease, e.g. symptomatic versus asymptomatic, or uncomplicated versus severe, has the potential to provide better prognostic indicators and to guide treatment. While this research has identified various acute-phase reactants, markers of endothelial or kidney function, and immune mediators, all of which have provided useful insight into the pathophysiology of malaria, it has not yet produced any useful clinical tool.

This Thematic Series of Malaria Journal, aims to address the various issues related to the identification of malaria biomarkers. It highlights recent research published in the journal, together with invited Opinion papers to stimulate further research.  

  1. Content type: Research

    Plasmodium 18S rRNA is a biomarker used to monitor blood-stage infections in malaria clinical trials. Plasmodium sporozoites also express this biomarker, and there is conflicting evidence about how long sporozoit...

    Authors: Sean C. Murphy, Andrew S. Ishizuka, Zachary P. Billman, Tayla M. Olsen, Annette M. Seilie, Ming Chang, Nahum Smith, Vorada Chuenchob, Sumana Chakravarty, B. Kim Lee Sim, Stefan H. I. Kappe, Stephen L. Hoffman and Robert A. Seder

    Citation: Malaria Journal 2018 17:275

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  2. Content type: Research

    Currently available diagnostic techniques of Plasmodium falciparum infection are not optimal for non-invasive, population-based screening for malaria. It was hypothesized that a mass spectrometry-based metabolomi...

    Authors: Salah Abdelrazig, Catharine A. Ortori, Gail Davey, Wakgari Deressa, Dhaba Mulleta, David A. Barrett, Alemayehu Amberbir and Andrew W. Fogarty

    Citation: Malaria Journal 2017 16:229

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  3. Content type: Research

    Plasmodium falciparum infection can lead to several clinical manifestations ranging from asymptomatic infections (AM) and uncomplicated malaria (UM) to potentially fatal severe malaria...

    Authors: Rachida Tahar, Catarina Albergaria, Neil Zeghidour, Vincent Foumane Ngane, Leonardo K. Basco and Christian Roussilhon

    Citation: Malaria Journal 2016 15:337

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