A selection of influential PLOS ONE papers on tropical medicine and malaria

For the XVIII International Congress for Tropical Medicine and Malaria Conference in Rio de Janeiro, PLOS ONE is highlighting eight recent articles.  Since January 2011, PLOS ONE has published almost 700 articles in the areas of tropical neglected diseases, tropical medicine, and malaria.  We’re sharing with you some of the papers that have received the most attention.  The authors on these papers come from across the globe, representing Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia, France, the Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

One paper in particular has stood out.  Researchers found a novel therapy that could revolutionize the treatment of viral infections from the common cold to Ebola.  The therapy eliminates cells that contain viral RNA while leaving uninfected cells unharmed.  In the study, the therapy was effective against 15 different viruses, including dengue flavivirus, rhinoviruses, and H1N1 influenza virus.

An article published last month reported that malaria incidence in Sri Lanka has declined by 99.9% since 1999, despite ongoing conflict in the country.  The success of the malaria program could be explained in part by effective prevention measures, early detection, and maintaining the program in conflict zones.  In less than a month, the paper has received over 1,000 views.

Bacteria on people’s skin can affect how attractive they seem to malaria-transmitting mosquitoes.  Research published last December found that malaria mosquitoes preferred people whose skin had an increased number of bacteria but fewer overall types.  The article received significant press coverage and has been viewed almost 10,000 times.

Although a vaccine that blocks malaria transmission is theoretically possible, several obstacles have prevented its development, including producing Plasmodium parasite antigens in a cost-effective manner.  A paper published in May 2012 showed algae can make Plasmodium proteins that can elicit an antibody response.  This approach could bring down overall costs of a vaccine.  Since publication this paper has been viewed over 3,500 times.

A different approach to combatting malaria is to increase the mosquito’s defenses against the parasite.  A paper published in January 2011 showed that it is possible to insert an anti-malarial gene into a specific location in the Anopheles gambiae genome.  This technique decreased infections of Plasmodium yoelii nigeriensis and could be effective against other Plasmodium parasites.  Since publication this paper has received over 2,000 views.

The results from a World Health Organization-led effort to estimate the global incidence of leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease spread by sandflies, published in May 2012.  To obtain an accurate estimate of the disease burden, the authors collected data from 98 countries and 3 territories.  The authors stressed the importance of this in-depth assessment in helping policy makers and aid organizations determine funding priorities for this underreported disease.  The paper has been viewed over 5,000 times.

One strategy parasites use to evade the host’s immune system, initiate infection, and even manipulate host behavior is to imitate the host’s proteins.  A study published in March 2011 presented a method for scanning entire parasite genomes to identify proteins that are mimicking host proteins.  The paper received over 4,000 views and was featured on the This Week in Parasitism podcast.

Finally, a new method for diagnosing infection by Schistosoma mansoni, the parasite that causes schistosomiasis, was published in June 2012.  This method, which is based on detecting the parasite’s DNA, provides greater sensitivity than the most routinely used diagnostic approach, requires only a urine sample, and has a relatively low cost.

If you are at the ICTMM, we hope that you have had a chance to stop by the PLOS booth, pick up one of the PLOS ONE postcards, and meet staff from PLOS Pathogens and PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Acknowledgment:  Thank you to Martin Fenner for helping us use the PLOS Article Level Metrics to identify influential PLOS ONE papers in the areas of tropical neglected diseases, tropical medicine, and malaria.

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