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Science AMA Series: This is Teun Bousema, PhD. I do research in malaria epidemiology, with a specific focus on malaria transmission and parasite biology, and I’m here today to talk about it. AMA!
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Hi Reddit! I’m Teun Bousema and I’m an epidemiologist in the Department of Medical Microbiology at Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. My research focuses on understanding the transmission of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum (P. falciparum) – that is, how malaria-infected humans are able to infect mosquitoes. I lived and worked for many years in Kenya, Tanzania and the United Kingdom before moving to Radboud University Medical Center. One of the unique achievements of my department is the development of a safe controlled human infection model for malaria. In our current publication in eLife, we utilized this model to study the biology and transmission potential of controlled P. falciparum infections in Dutch volunteers who were exposed to malaria-infected mosquitoes. Our volunteers received treatment that controlled the pathogenic forms of malaria (and thus kept them safe) but stimulated the production of non-pathogenic transmissible stages of malaria parasites – the so-called gametocytes. We successfully induced gametocytes in all volunteers in sex ratios that resemble those observed in natural infections, and found that parasites start producing gametocytes immediately upon appearing in the bloodstream. Our model provides a new way to investigate malaria infection, and could help to test the impact of drugs and vaccines on gametocytes in the future. I look forward to talking more about our findings and anything related to my area of expertise more broadly. Together with Isaie Reuling, a clinician researcher and first author on the eLife manuscript, I’ll start answering questions at 2pm EDT. You can read the full eLife paper, and use the annotation tool to make notes and discuss the findings further. A plain-language summary is also available here. AMA!