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EMBL/EMBO Joint Conference 2002

Janet Hemingway, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool, UK


Janet Hemingway received her PhD in 1981 from the University of London (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine). From 1994 to 2001 she was Professor of Applied Molecular Entomology at the University of Wales, Cardiff. From 1996 until 2001 she was the Company Secretary and Non-executive Director, PelGar International, a UK based company with Japanese and French backing. Currently she is Director of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. She leads a group of twenty-nine research scientists at the post-doctoral and post-graduate level, specialising in biochemistry and molecular biology of specific enzyme systems associated with xenobiotic resistance. She is currently conducting overseas projects in Australia, Brazil, Cuba, Denmark, Malaysia, Mexico, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, The Gambia, Trinidad and USA. She has extensive experience working in tropical regions of Africa, Asia and South America over a 20-year period. She heads the World Health Organisation Quality Control Team for insecticide residue analysis (based in Cardiff since 1995).


Past problems and future opportunities for malaria and denge control

The introduction of DDT for control of malaria vectors in the late 1940s, and the early eradication of malaria from the periphery of its transmission range by residual house spraying with this insecticide, led directly to the malaria eradication campaign of the 1960s backed by the World Health Organisation. At the end of the 1960s, the concept of eradication was formally dropped in favour of sustainable control, in large part due to drug and insecticide resistance. There has recently been a resurgence in anti-malarial activities with the Roll Back Malaria initiative and Global Fund for Health supporting extensive use of pyrethroid-impregnated bednets for control campaigns in Africa and other malaria endemic regions. How will the current large-scale pyrethroid resistance in West Africa impact on this, and what will replace the treated nets if pyrethroid resistance results in wide spread failure? Genomics will play an increasing part in the development of new malaria control tools. Comparative Anopheles gam - biae and Drosophila melanogaster, and parasite genomics will yield novel hormonal, neuronal or regulatory molecular targets for the development of new insecticides and drugs and will also allow us to attack resistance problems and thus enhance the life span of the currently available drugs or insecticides. Potential vaccines continue to be heavily researched, but as yet there is no obvious candidate for a vaccine that will be readily applicable to the majority of populations living in endemic areas.

The situation is similar with dengue, the most rapidly spreading viral disease. Here insecticide spraying is less effective against the major day biting vector Aedes aegypti. Current methods rely on community participation to reduce breeding sites, which is difficult to sustain. Novel methods of blocking dengue transmission are well advanced and the transgenic technology to replace vector mosquitoes with non-vectors may be ready first in this scheme. The optimum way forward with both diseases is likely to be a combination of improving on existing methodologies while developing new methods based on the emerging genomic and proteomic technologies.