Plasmodium's dilemma: Should I stay or should I go?
Dr. Kim Williamson
March 13 at 12:20pm in the Fralin Auditorium, 102 Fralin Hall
Hosted by Dr. M. Klemba
Kim C. Williamson joined the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences Faculty in 2015 as a Professor in the Microbiology and Immunology Department. Her primary research interests are malaria immunity and transmission. Specific projects include malaria vaccine and drug development as well as studying the basic biology of parasite differentiation in vitro and in vivo in Ghana. She received a Ph.D. from Boston University and started working on malaria as a post-doctoral fellow at the National Institutes of Health in the Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. She then joined the faculty at Loyola University Chicago, where she continued to focus on malaria transmission using both forward and reverse genetics to investigate the underlying molecular mechanisms, as well as drug development. Her laboratory was the first to identify a gene required for gametocyte production, Pfgdv1, and the set of genes up regulated in early gametocytes. Dr. Williamson is currently collaborating with Dr. Amoah at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research to extend this finding into the field to understand the host and parasite factors that contribute to gametocyte production and survival. Recently she has also begun a new project evaluating the maturation of the immune response following repeat malaria exposure. Dr. Williamson was a member of the malERA Refresh Panel and is currently serving on the Vaccines for Microbial Diseases Study Section, the editorial board of Parasitology Research and is an active member of the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
Malaria eradication requires new approaches to detect and eliminate parasite transmission. Our ongoing field and in vitro work investigates the initial steps in the production of the sexual stages of P. falciparum parasites required for transmission. We recently identified transmission markers that can be detected before the parasites mature into the stages that can be transmitted to mosquitoes, allowing for the first time identification of populations at high risk for transmission before they are infectious. We have also begun to identify parameters that influence gametocyte production and could provide new options to reduce malaria transmission in the field and block the spread of malaria.