Research Fellows Directory
Dr Lucy Okell
Imperial College London
Malaria parasites have repeatedly evolved resistance to successive antimalarial drugs which have been deployed against them. Highly effective drugs called artemisinin-based therapies have been widely introduced over the last 10-20 years, and together with increased control of the mosquito vectors which spread malaria, there have been impressive reductions in the global number of malaria cases and deaths. However in 2009, scientists discovered that parasites in Southeast Asia had developed resistance to these medicines as well, which is of great concern because there are currently no suitable alternatives for wide-scale use. Furthermore, resistant parasites could spread to, or develop in Africa, where the majority of malaria deaths occur. Advances in molecular analysis mean that genetic markers of artemisinin resistance have already been identified and researchers are able to track resistance at different locations as it develops. My research will seek to utilise this new wealth of data to develop computer simulations to describe how artemisinin-resistant parasite strains spread over time. I aim to improve our understanding of what factors are causing artemisinin resistance to develop and spread in Southeast Asia, to what extent other endemic areas in Africa are also vulnerable to these resistant parasites, and what strategies might be most effective for controlling the problem or slowing the spread of resistance.
Interests and expertise (Subject groups)