David J. Sullivan, M.D.

Research

My research program investigates new diagnostic tools, mechanism of drug action, pathogenesis of malaria disease and epidemiology of drug resistance for P. falciparum.

Malaria is a "stealer of dreams" for most of Africa, which bears the brunt of more than 80% morbidity and mortality from this protozoan disease. I treated my first malaria patient as an intern at Washington University in 1988 and have been focused on this pathogen since that time.

My main research interest in malaria, has been the molecular biology of metals and how the quinolines interfere with heme iron sequestration into heme crystals called hemozoin. The laboratory is also investigating the Plasmodium biology of copper and zinc. Present and developing work includes new uses for existing drugs with creation of a library of more than 1,800 FDA approved drugs for which we have screened for antimalarial cellular activity.

Two additional areas include the pathogenesis of cerebral malaria with a coincubation of P. falciparum with a human brain endothelial model in order to study effects on endothelium and the pathogenesis of mother to child transmission of HIV in the setting of placental malaria.

On the population level, the laboratory is investigating new malaria diagnostics based on detection of hemozoin in the blood by laser desorption mass spectrometry and also detection of malaria proteins and DNA in the urine. The population dynamics of acquisition of immunity followed by microsatellites in young children in malaria endemic areas is also being explored.

We are also creating maps of malaria to focus control efforts.

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