BREAKTHROUGHS BLOG

December 01, 2013

Three key research developments you might have missed from the ASTMH Annual Meeting

Director of Communications
American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

In this guest post, Jaclyn Schiff—American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) Director of Communications—highlights news in global health research presented during the recent ASTMH Annual Meeting.

Just two week ago, more than 3,700 attendees gathered in Washington, DC, to announce, share, and discuss the latest research findings on a broad range of global health issues, including neglected tropical diseases, surgery in the developing world, and malaria.

Just two week ago, more than 3,700 attendees gathered in Washington, DC, to announce, share, and discuss the latest research findings on a broad range of global health issues at the ASTMH Annual Meeting. Credit: ASTMH.
Just two week ago, more than 3,700 attendees gathered in Washington, DC, to announce, share, and discuss the latest research findings on a broad range of global health issues at the ASTMH Annual Meeting. Credit: ASTMH.

Though the meeting attracted one of the largest crowds ever, the absence—due to federal travel budget cuts—of key researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, the Army, and Navy was noticeable. This also significantly affected the Annual Meeting last year, and the cuts persist with no sign of letting up. One unfortunate consequence is that scientific collaboration suffers at the Annual Meeting and at countless other research-focused gatherings. When science is stifled, we all lose out.

But our colleagues who were able to make it, got on with it, and the media reported extensively on their findings. News coming out of the Annual Meeting covered a lot of ground—from gender bias in global health science to plague surveillance involving traditional healers in Uganda. So just in case you weren’t able to take it all in, here are three critical pieces of research from this year’s meeting:

To enter human blood cells, the parasite usually uses the so-called Duffy blood group protein, a protein on the surface of red blood cells. But because up to 95 percent of the population across sub-Saharan Africa lacks the protein—a genetic trait called “Duffy negative”—they have long been thought to be protected from infection. Yet reports have emerged in recent years of Duffy-negative people who are nevertheless infected with vivax malaria.

“If vivax can establish itself in Africa, it can really undo a lot of the malaria progress we’ve made,” study co-author Peter Zimmerman, PhD, of Case Western Reserve University told the New York Times .

Additional highlights, original news stories, and interviews are available on the #TropMed2013 Tumblr.

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