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Parasitic diseases of the global poor: from understanding complex host-parasite interactions to sustainable control
Third-party funded project
Project title Parasitic diseases of the global poor: from understanding complex host-parasite interactions to sustainable control
Principal Investigator(s) Utzinger, Jürg
Organisation / Research unit Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) / Health Impact Assessment (Utzinger)
Project start 01.03.2004
Probable end 29.02.2008
Status Completed

The focus of my research programme is on parasitic diseases of the global poor, with an emphasis on malaria, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH) and food-borne trematodiasis. Some of the most intriguing questions are the understanding of the complex host-parasite interactions. This implies fundamental investigations of the host-to-parasite cross-talk, and the interplay between the diseases and risk factors operating at different scales. Recognising the challenges of addressing these issues, I pursue four main research questions:

(1) How can the dynamics of multiple species parasitic infections and disease-attributable morbidity be captured and what is the scope and limitation of NMR-based metabonomics for individual diagnosis and prognosis, and monitoring of morbidity control programmes?

(2) What are key ecological and socio-economic determinants of infection risk, and how does the combination of epidemiological sample surveys with remotely sensed environmental data and innovative Bayesian spatial statistical modelling improve predictions?

(3) To what extent do demographic and ecological transformations change the frequency and transmission dynamics of parasitic diseases, and what can mitigation strategies achieve?

(4) What is the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of integrated parasitic disease control, and what are social and economic benefits of sustaining these interventions?

My research programme will be facilitated through an iterative process, integrating large-scale community-based longitudinal surveys with modern laboratory investigations and innovative spatial statistical approaches.After these four years of research, we shall enhance, at the individual/community level, knowledge of host-parasite interactions, and establish to what extent NMR-based metabonomics can become a tool for diagnosis and prognosis of multiple parasitic infections and the monitoring of disease control programmes. At the community/regional level, innovative approaches for risk assessment and prediction of disease are developed and validated. At the regional/ecosystem level, connections between demographic/ecological transformation and transmission dynamics of parasitic diseases are quantified. The proposed research will establish unique databases for integrated economic and social policy analyses and the tailoring of strategies for cost-effective and sustainable control of parasitic diseases. We anticipate that our analytical and intervention strategies will guide studies of similar character carried out elsewhere, hence will inspire global control programmes.

Keywords Parasitic diseases, host-parasite interactions, malaria, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminthiasis, food-borne trematodiasis, integration and sustainability, diagnosis and prognosis, NMR-based metabonomics, epidemiology
Financed by Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)

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