Research interests of the Dame lab include: Emerging and re-emerging pathogens of animals and man; Molecular biology of the malaria parasite; Aspartic proteases as antimalarial drug targets; Vaccine antigen delivery for an improved malaria vaccine; Improved diagnosis of malaria infections; and the Genetic basis for adaptation of Plasmodium falciparum for sustained transmission in the New World.
Two studies are the current focus of the lab:
Efforts to control malaria in various locations are approaching pre-elimination. To succeed in malaria elimination, it is essential to be able to diagnose all infections. Asymptomatic, submicroscopic infections, and P. falciparum lines that have lost the HRP2 antigen biomarker, are detection resistant. Our lab utilizes a diagnostic test designed to detect an essential biomarker, which also has an ultralow level of detection (18S rRNA-qRT-PCR). Preparations are underway to utilize this approach combined with other assays to identify the proportion of malaria infections missed by current methods and estimate their potential contribution to sustained transmission in a low transmission setting. These quality controlled diagnostic services are available to public health laboratories requesting assistance for epidemiologic studies.
Progress is being made in our lab to characterize the evolution of P. falciparum on Hispaniola via whole genome sequencing. Following its introduction five hundred years ago from Africa, the ecosystems of the New World have applied powerful selective pressures on the parasite. Prominent among the selective pressures has been the requirement to utilize novel Anopheline mosquito vectors, as well as the opportunity to infect New World primates in some regions. The genetic basis underlying this successful adaptation is being characterized.