The group’s goal is to contribute to the development of scientific research in health with a biological and social perspective, and to the training of undergraduate and postgraduate students through the execution of research projects. The public health problems we seek to impact are mainly those related to malaria, intestinal parasites (geohelminths in particular), and malnutrition in children. For this purpose, in addition to the knowledge about such problems, it is critical to recognize their epidemiological behavior and the relationships they have through the immunological processes. In the case of malaria, we explicitly focus on studying the issues related to pregnancy-associated malaria, such as gestational malaria (in the woman), placental malaria (in the placenta), and congenital malaria (in the product of pregnancy: in the neonate in utero).
Research Areas and Topics
Social factors of malaria and associated infections.
Dr. Stephanie K. Yanow (University of Alberta, Canada).
Gestational, congenital, and placental malaria in the Antioquian Urabá, 2005-2007.
Gestational infection by Plasmodium vivax: immunopathogenesis, histopathology, and plasmodium genetics, and its effects on maternal, fetal, and neonatal morbimortality in the Colombian northwest, 2016-2018.
Integrated molecular approaches to the diagnosis and epidemiology of pregnancy-associated malaria in Latin America.
Immunomodulatory effect of placental plasmodium infection in pregnant women and neonates in an endemic Colombian area.
Gestational and placental malaria in Colombia: a clinical, eco-epidemiological, and social approach.
Main Research Results
We generated the first scientific knowledge base in Colombia about pregnancy-associated malaria with results and conclusions that enable the adoption of strategies and actions for (at least) alleviating the issues. The results were published in journals and academic events and they were made available to the health authorities.
We firmly established the pathogenic capability of Plasmodium vivax as a parasitical agent causally associated with placental and congenital malaria in Colombia and the world. We also demonstrated its histopathological, immunopathological, and other effects. This demonstration also shows that the parasite behaves similarly to Plasmodium falciparum, an agent whose pathogenic power has been widely documented in Africa since long ago. The results were published in journals and academic events and they were made available to the health authorities.
We showed that, when used as a monotherapy for P. vivax-caused gestational malaria, chloroquine and amodiaquine have an efficacy greater than 95% in curing acute attacks of the disease in pregnant women, for whom it is not used along primaquine, a medicine intended to avoid relapses of the disease which occur due to parasites that persist in the liver and for which chloroquine and amodiaquine are not effective. The relapse frequency in pregnant women who undertook chloroquine monotherapy is about 30% or more, which is a grave situation.
We showed that at least 80% of the pregnant women residing in the northwestern region of the country where we carried out our research have intestinal parasites of the geohelminth pathogen kind (Ascais lumbricoides, Trichuris trichiura, Necator americanus, Ancylostoma duodenale) and that co-infection between plasmodia (malaria) and geohelminth occurred in about 10 % of them. Such women and their families endure awful living conditions in their places of residence, their neighborhoods, and their wider economic and social conditions, which have immediate and severe consequences on their children.
The group offers:
Advice, training, and continuing education on the three problems we carry out research on (malaria, intestinal parasites, malnutrition), mainly focusing on populations of pregnant women and children less than 15 years old.
Training on basic and advanced malaria diagnosis procedures.
Advice on the development of research projects.
Academic and research internships offered by the group to health students and professionals from Colombia and other countries.