• Project Title: A Risk-Evaluating Malaria Assay

  • BASIS Advisor: William Webb

  • Internship Location: National Institute of Health

  • Onsite Mentor: Dr. Alvaro Molina-Cruz

How can we determine the risk of an epidemic? Previously, such a test was not possible for the world’s most dangerous mosquito-borne infectious disease, malaria. By working with strains of a malaria parasite’s genome we can determine its risk to specified native populations. My project applies this method to the most common and second most deadly malaria strain, P. Vivax. I will be working through the NIH, beginning with asynchronous informatics work before transitioning to the lab. The informatics work consists of deriving a correlation between various regionalized strains of P. Vivax and point differences in nucleotides within the segment of the P. Vivax which allows it to resist anti-infective agents in local, distinguished mosquito populations. Once this has been done, I will move to the lab where I will join a team of researchers in developing a PCR test to quickly isolate these genetic differences. Given previously established strong selective pressures, I expect to derive relevant correlations. The progress of the associated lab work is less certain due to the necessity of new inputs of research specimens. This project gives the opportunity to apply my efforts to an issue of critical importance to millions of people around the world and the policymakers who represent them. Also, it provides the opportunity to work alongside some of the finest researchers in the world.