Combatting Parasitic Diseases in Malaysia with Professor Indra Vythilingam


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Professor Vythilingam started working with parasitic diseases in the early 1980s and now studies the recent upsurge in Plasmodium knowlesi in humans, which is a malaria originating in monkey hosts. In this podcast, she discusses

  • How scientists traced the different Plasmodium species to discover that humans were being infected with this simian malaria that originates from different parasites,
  • Why it's important that Malaysian mosquitos have adapted to biting in the early evening outdoors instead of indoors late at night, and
  • How researchers and the Malaysian government are working together to find a solution to stopping these parasites.

Indra Vythilingam is a professor of parasitology at the University of Malaya. Malaria is not a virus; rather, it's a disease caused by a parasite of the Plasmodium species that follows a host and vector life cycle. She started working on malaria the early 80s. In the early 1990s, she worked on a study with insecticide-treated mosquito nets, proving their efficacy. However, in the years since, malaria-infected mosquitoes have adapted their behaviors and evolved in Malaysia to bite earlier in the evening and outdoors.

Furthermore, she explains that malaria is traveling from monkeys to mosquitos to people in Malaysia, a discovery made in 2004. Previously it was thought that humans could only catch malaria from a few specific species thought of as the human malaria parasites. However, a 2004 paper showed the simian parasite, Plasmodium knowlesi, had been transmitted to humans. Professor Vythilingam explains that the human malaria has been almost eradicated from the area, but they now have this difficult development to face. She discusses what measures she and her colleagues are hoping to take after the COVID-19 virus pandemic slows enough to allow them to return to the field.

For more information, search for Indra Vythilingam in Google Scholar and other such research-accruing sites. Available on Apple Podcasts:

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