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Macaques and Malaria This resource has been developed by the Association for Science Education for their RCUK funded series ‘Research focused teaching resources to inspire students in STEM Careers’
The global research context The worldwide battle against malaria… The World Health Organisation reports that…. “In 2013, an estimated 437 000 African children died before their fifth birthday due to malaria. Globally, the disease caused an estimated 453 000 under-five deaths in 2013. ” Photo credit: CDC/ James Gathany Malaria is a disease affecting countries around the world. It is specifically targeted in the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. Scientists around the world are engaged in collaborative research into how to prevent the spread of this deadly transmissible disease and how to treat it.
Your BIG Research question… How can a field work survey help explain why there has been an increase in macaque carried malaria (Plasmodium knowlesi) in Borneo?
Student Sheet 1 Research summary “Historically, malaria in Borneo was caused by Plasmodium falciparum, a tiny parasite which hitches a ride in mosquitoes and is transmitted to people through its bite. But now people in Borneo are more likely to be infected with a parasite called Plasmodium knowlesi, which is just as severe in people as Plasmodium falciparum, even though the infection is mild in its usual targets of short-tailed and pig-tailed macaque monkeys. The researchers are combining the aerial photographs produced from the drones with data from humans carrying GPS trackers and monkeys wearing GPS collars. They are also adding data on P. knowlesi cases in hospitals and mosquito abundance. ” Image Credit: Kimberly Fornace Questions… 1. This type of malaria is unusual because it is passed to humans when a mosquito that has bitten an infected macaque then bites a human. The fieldwork has produced maps like the on the right. You can see areas of forest and areas where forest has been cleared. Check the key to find out what else is shown. 2. 3. 4. 5. How is malaria normally transmitted to humans? What is unusual about how the P. knowlesi is passed to humans? In this photo is there a correlation between the condition of the forest and the location of the macaques? Why might cases of P. knowlesi in humans be increasing? What other data would you need to look at? Now investigate your Big Research Question. . How can a field work survey help explain why there has been an increase in macaque carried malaria (P. knowlesi) in Borneo?
Going deeper: Survey Data Research in Borneo is ongoing. Local participants are being interviewed to find out more about where they live and work and how often they sight macaques. They are also having their blood tested to find out whether they have P. knowlesi (Pk). The sample data shows the types of responses that the scientists are receiving but what else do the scientists need to ask? Image Credit: Kimberly Fornace Look at the sample data provided by the scientists. 1. What factors seem to show a correlation with positive Pk results? For example, the number of macaques sighted and where, where a person lives, works, travels…… 2. What other questions could the scientists ask or what other data could they collect to find out more? The final survey will have thousands of participants' data to analyse. The scientists will use powerful statistical methods to analyse the large amount of data and to search for correlations, before interpreting the statistical relationships and drawing meaningful conclusions. 3. If any of your suggested factors were confirmed by the final larger survey, what changes could be made to public health systems to help reduce cases of P. knowlesi malaria?
Going deeper: Sample Survey Data Participant Pk test ID result Gender Age Occupation Distance Number of between macaque house & forest sightings in (m) last week 001 + M 38 Rubber tapper 1150 >10 002 - F 34 Homemaker 960 0 F 4 - 170 7 -9 004 + + M 42 Subsistence farmer 40 7 -9 005 - M 12 Student 550 4 -6 006 + M 23 Student 220 7 -9 F 68 Retired 580 1 -3 F 1 - 890 0 003 008 - 009 - M 4 - 460 1 -3 010 + F 13 Student 140 >10 007 Interview Notes This man doesn’t live close to the forest, but goes into the forest every day to tap rubber trees. He sees macaques frequently and would be exposed to the same mosquitoes as those macaques This woman doesn't live close to the forest, and spends a lot of her time in or around the house. She hasn't seen any macaques in the last week which might mean they don’t cross paths. However, a GPS tracker might reveal her daily activities outside of the house, e. g. does she walk through a forest in order to go to the shops or medical facilities? This child spends most of the time in or around the house, but the house is <200 m from the forest edge and macaques are frequently sighted. This man lives very close to the forest, and spends most of his day in his farm area around the house. He sees macaques frequently. This boy lives moderately close to the forest and sees macaques a few times each week. He attends school each day. GPS tracker data would reveal his path to school each day - does he walk through/near the forest or farmland? This man lives close to the forest edge and frequently sees macaques. He also attends college in the nearby town. GPS tracker data would reveal his path to college, whether he travels through or near the forest. This woman is retired and spends most of her time in or around the house, which is not very close to the forest, but she does see a few macaques. This baby lives quite far from the forest and her parent/guardian reported no sightings of macaques in the last week. This boy lives moderately close to the forest and sees macaques a few times each week. GPS tracker data would reveal his movements each day, e. g. does his parent/guardian take him into town, and what path do they take? This girl lives close to the forest and sees macaques very frequently. She attends school each day. GPS tracker data would reveal exactly where she walks to/from school.
Where can science research take you? Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine are taking part in this research project in Borneo Scientist Kimberly Fornace setting up a drone to take aerial photographs of the forest in Borneo. Image Credit: Kimberly Fornace Scientists carrying out GPS mapping of house locations in Borneo. Image Credit: Kimberly Fornace For more information on science and STEM careers see www. futuremorph. org.
Useful Links Further Information WHO Malaria 2014 Report Factsheet - Useful background on the global fight against malaria. Bloodlust and the mosquito - An article from the MRC Insight Blog explaining how the mosquito spreads malaria. Other resources from MRC, NERC, ESRC and BBSRC… MRC Insight Blog - A wealth of short articles highlighting contemporary medical research. Planet Earth Magazine - News articles and podcasts produced by NERC on research news from the natural world which could be used to bring cutting edge research to the classroom. BBSRC Secondary Resources - A range of resources suitable for students age 14 to 16 with more for ages 11 to 14 also available. ESRC Youtube Channel - A range of short videos on economic and social issues. NERC Youtube Channel - Includes video clips illustrating a broad range of science careers relating to the natural environment.
Acknowledgements Research Paper This activity is based on research that is being carried out as part of the “Monkeybar” project, which is funded by the Research Councils UK through the Environmental and Social Ecology of Human Infectious Diseases initiative (Grant Ref. G 1100796). We would like to acknowledge the support and advice of Professor Chris Drakeley (Principal Investigator/Head of Project), Beth Downe (Project Administrator) and Dr. Kimberly Fornace (Project Scientist/Researcher) from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. We also thank Kimberly for permission to use her photographs of the project. Organisations The Environmental and Social Ecology of Human Infectious Diseases Initiative has resulted from a collaboration between the following Research Councils: • Medical Research Council (MRC) • Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) • Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)