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WANETAM3: Molecular and Serological surveillance of Malaria Workshop


Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia at LSHTM, 19th to 25th February 2023

1.     Background 

The progress towards a malaria-free world is threatened by drug and insecticide resistance, and more recently by the COVID-19 pandemic that is diverting resources and public health focus from other diseases. Decline towards elimination has stalled, including in West Africa. However, prevalence remains highly heterogeneous within and between countries. Key drivers of persistent transmission are the asymptomatic malaria-infected individuals, importation due to migration and irresponsiveness of Anopheline vectors to insecticides. Genomic surveillance of malaria is becoming a sensitive and transformative tool, allowing for evaluation of local and regional transmission dynamics and the effect of interventions. There is a critical lack of the knowledge and skills in molecular and serological surveillance in West Africa, especially among young scientists. With many WANETAM institutions acquiring capacity for molecular surveillance, malaria scientists will be trained in targeted deep sequencing and data analysis. This will enable high-resolution evaluation of local drug interventions and transmission across the region. They will also be exposed to serological screening methods to determine foci of transmission and residual infections.

This WANETAM workshop aims at strengthening the knowledge and skills of postdoctoral fellows.  This course will be organised by the MRC under the ambit of WANETAM Malaria work package. 

2.     Objective 

i.      To strengthen the skills of young scientists on laboratory and data analysis for molecular epidemiology of malaria

ii.      To enhance analytical capacities for molecular and serological evaluation of transmission dynamics

3.     Learning Method

The training under this model will be laboratory-based. The following training activities are planned: 

Activity 1: Molecular surveillance assays for parasites. Fellows will train on next generation sequencing based molecular genotyping assays. Trainees will gain skills in NGS library preparation and amplicon sequencing data analysis for Ilumina and Nanopore platforms. Each trainee will evaluate isolates from their country collected at sentinel sites. An introduction to population genomic bioinformatics tools will be delivered. An NGS panel of P. falciparum drug resistance and diversity loci will be used to evaluate complexity of infection, relatedness, prevalence of drug resistance markers and transmission paths.

Activity 2: Serological surveillance of Malaria. Fellows will be on malaria serology, utilizing the Luminex platform. Lectures will be delivered on data analysis and epidemiological planning of serological surveys. 

4.     Training Requirements 

Each participant will be required to come along with at least 200 malaria parasite positive dry blood spots (DBS) and at least 100 of RDT negative DBS. These will be used for data generation towards a WP manuscript. A pre-test and post-test will be administered. A certificate of completion will be awarded to those participants who successfully complete the course.

5.     Outcomes

i.      This training will equip participating institutions with the capacity to engage primarily in planning, implementation, and reporting of molecular surveillance of malaria to evaluate the effect of current interventions transmission, and dynamics of molecular markers of drug resistance. 

ii.     Participating institutions will pilot small research projects at sentinel sites across all partner institutions. These pilot projects will enhance two main skills: molecular and serological data analysis. 

6.     Targeted population

This training is for early Postdoctoral fellows based in the WANETAM Malaria WP institutions.

7.     Selection Criteria

WANETAM institutions’ scientists are eligible to apply. The candidate should submit

·       a detailed CV, 

·       a letter of motivation that briefly describes their present skills and explain why they will gain from attending. 

·       In addition, the application package should include a letter of support from the Director/Head of institution. 

Applications will be reviewed by a selection committee and only those selected will be informed of the outcome of their applications. 

Applications must be sent by email to: Alfred.Ngwa@lshtm.ac.uk or to Dembo.Kanteh@lshtm.ac.uk by December 30th, 2022. Selected candidates will be informed January 15th, 2022.

8.     Lead Contact for Communication 

Prof. Alfred Amambua-Ngwa

Mr. Dembo Kanteh 

9.     Date and Venue 

February 19th -25th, 2023, at MRCG molecular Laboratory

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