Bioethics Blogs

LabTV: Curious About Malaria

It’s the time of year when thoughts turn to buying school supplies and heading back to the classroom or off to university. So, throughout the month of August, I’ll be sharing LabTV profiles of young people whose learning experiences have set them on the path to becoming biomedical researchers.

One of the great things about college is that you never know where those four years might lead you. Elyse Munoz, who’s the focus of today’s video, offers an excellent case in point. Upon enrolling at Arizona State University, Tempe, she chose political science as her major—only to find the classes “incredibly boring.” Then a friend talked Munoz into taking an anatomy class, and suddenly everything clicked: she discovered biology was her true calling.

Now, Munoz is a candidate for a Ph.D. in genetics at Pennsylvania State University, State College. Working in the lab of molecular parasitologist Scott Lindner, Munoz is contributing to the search for promising vaccine targets for malaria, a mosquito-borne disease that kills more than a half-million people, mainly children under the age of 5, around the globe each year.

I’ve cared for children and adults with malaria myself when I served as a volunteer physician in Nigeria. I can vouch for what a serious illness this is. Because the parasitic microbe that causes malaria (Plasmodium) is growing increasingly resistant to anti-malarial drugs, an effective vaccine is desperately needed to protect the half of the world’s population that lives in at-risk, tropical regions.

Munoz and her colleagues have already uncovered a promising lead.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.