Publications by authors named "James S McCarthy"

199 Publications

Detection of six soil-transmitted helminths in human stool by qPCR- a systematic workflow.

PLoS One 2021 30;16(9):e0258039. Epub 2021 Sep 30.

Tropical Diseases Research Group, Murdoch Children's Research Institute, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Soil-transmitted helminths (STH) infect up to one-quarter of the global population, with a significant associated disease burden. The main human STH are: Ancylostoma spp. and Necator americanus (hookworms); Ascaris lumbricoides, Trichuris trichiura, and Strongyloides stercoralis. The aim of this study was to establish a scalable system for stool STH multiplex quantitative real-time polymerase chain reactions (qPCR). Stool samples collected in Fiji and preserved in potassium dichromate were transferred to Melbourne at ambient temperature. Samples were washed to remove potassium dichromate and DNA was extracted with the Mini-Beadbeater-24 and a column-based kit. A SYBR green qPCR to detect the vertebrate mitochondrial gene was used as a DNA extraction control. Samples were tested using a probe-based multiplex qPCR targeting A. lumbricoides, T. trichiura and S. stercoralis, and in a second multiplex reaction to detect hookworms to the species level (A. duodenale, A. ceylanicum, N. americanus). An internal amplification control in both multiplex assays was included to prevent false-negative results due to PCR inhibitors. Samples were homogenised for a single cycle of 40 seconds to release STH DNA and washed stool was stored for up to 15 weeks at -30°C without compromising DNA. Our multiplex qPCR detected multiple species of STH without reduced sensitivity compared to singleplex. qPCR data from 40 stools was validated against STH-positive stools determined by microscopy. We have developed and validated an efficient and staged system for detecting six clinically important STH affecting humans that could be easily implemented without advanced automation in any qPCR-capable laboratory.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0258039PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8483301PMC
September 2021

Real-time PCR assays for detection and quantification of early P. falciparum gametocyte stages.

Sci Rep 2021 Sep 27;11(1):19118. Epub 2021 Sep 27.

College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman.

The use of quantitative qRT-PCR assays for detection and quantification of late gametocyte stages has revealed the high transmission capacity of the human malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. To understand how the parasite adjusts its transmission in response to in-host environmental conditions including antimalarials requires simultaneous quantification of early and late gametocytes. Here, we describe qRT-PCR assays that specifically detect and quantify early-stage P. falciparum gametocytes. The assays are based on expression of known early and late gametocyte genes and were developed using purified stage II and stage V gametocytes and tested in natural and controlled human infections. Genes pfpeg4 and pfg27 are specifically expressed at significant levels in early gametocytes with a limit of quantification of 190 and 390 gametocytes/mL, respectively. In infected volunteers, transcripts of pfpeg4 and pfg27 were detected shortly after the onset of blood stage infection. In natural infections, both early (pfpeg4/pfg27) and late gametocyte transcripts (pfs25) were detected in 71.2% of individuals, only early gametocyte transcripts in 12.6%, and only late gametocyte transcripts in 15.2%. The pfpeg4/pfg27 qRT-PCR assays are sensitive and specific for quantification of circulating sexually committed ring stages/early gametocytes and can be used to increase our understanding of epidemiological processes that modulate P. falciparum transmission.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-97456-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8476600PMC
September 2021

Prevalence of Neutralising Antibodies to HCoV-NL63 in Healthy Adults in Australia.

Viruses 2021 08 16;13(8). Epub 2021 Aug 16.

Centre for Immunology and Infection Control, School of Biomedical Science, Faculty of Health, Queensland University of Technology, South Brisbane, QLD 4007, Australia.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of understanding the immune response to seasonal human coronavirus (HCoV) infections such as HCoV-NL63, how existing neutralising antibodies to HCoV may modulate responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection, and the utility of seasonal HCoV as human challenge models. Therefore, in this study we quantified HCoV-NL63 neutralising antibody titres in a healthy adult population using plasma from 100 blood donors in Australia. A microneutralisation assay was performed with plasma diluted from 1:10 to 1:160 and tested with the HCoV-NL63 Amsterdam-1 strain. Neutralising antibodies were detected in 71% of the plasma samples, with a median geometric mean titre of 14. This titre was similar to those reported in convalescent sera taken from individuals 3-7 months following asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection, and 2-3 years post-infection from symptomatic SARS-CoV-1 patients. HCoV-NL63 neutralising antibody titres decreased with increasing age (R = 0.042, = 0.038), but did not differ by sex. Overall, this study demonstrates that neutralising antibody to HCoV-NL63 is detectable in approximately 71% of the healthy adult population of Australia. Similar titres did not impede the use of another seasonal human coronavirus (HCoV-229E) in a human challenge model, thus, HCoV-NL63 may be useful as a human challenge model for more pathogenic coronaviruses.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/v13081618DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8402802PMC
August 2021

Vaccination of human participants with attenuated Necator americanus hookworm larvae and human challenge in Australia: a dose-finding study and randomised, placebo-controlled, phase 1 trial.

Lancet Infect Dis 2021 Aug 19. Epub 2021 Aug 19.

Clinical Tropical Medicine, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Herston, QLD, Australia; Infectious Diseases Unit, Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, Herston, QLD, Australia.

Background: Control of human hookworm infection would be greatly aided by the development of an effective vaccine. We aimed to develop a live attenuated human hookworm vaccine.

Methods: This was a two-part clinical trial done at Q-Pharm in Brisbane (QLD, Australia) using a live ultraviolet C (UVC)-attenuated Necator americanus larvae vaccine. Part one was an open-label, dose-finding study using 50 L3 larvae suspended in water to a volume of 200 μL, attenuated with UVC exposure of 700 μJ (L3-700) or 1000 μJ (L3-1000). Part two was a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, challenge study, in which participants were randomly assigned 2:1 to the vaccine group or placebo group. Healthy hookworm-naive adults aged 18-65 years with body-mass index 18-35 kg/m received two doses of either placebo (Tabasco sauce) or vaccine (50 L3-700) on day 1 and day 42, followed by challenge with 30 unattenuated L3 larvae to both groups. All participants received a single oral dose of 400 mg albendazole 4 weeks after each inoculation and a 3-day course (400 mg orally daily) initiated on day 161 after the challenge phase, to eliminate any remaining infection. The primary outcome of part 1 was the level of larval attenuation the resulted in a grade 2 or 3 dermal adverse event. The primary outcome of part 2 was safety and tolerability, assessed by frequency and severity of adverse events in all randomly assigned participants. Prespecified exploratory outcomes in the challenge study were faecal N americanus DNA concentration, the number of N americanus larvae recovered per g of faeces cultured, hookworm antigen-specific serum IgG antibody responses, and hookworm antigen-specific peripheral blood cytokine responses. The trial is registered with the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12617001007325).

Findings: Between Sept 19, 2017, and Oct 24, 2018, seven participants were enrolled into three cohorts in part one (two participants in cohort 1, who received L3-700; two participants in cohort 2, who received L3-700; and three participants in cohort 3, who received L3-1000) and a further 15 were enrolled into part two. There were no serious adverse events in part one or part two. In part one, a greater number of skin penetration sites were observed after administration of L3-700 than L3-1000 (mean 15·75 [95% CI 11·18 to 20·32] with L3-700 vs 4·33 [-1·40 to 10·07] with L3-1000). Similarly, greater erythema (median 225 mm [IQR 150 to 325] vs 25 mm [12·5 to 80]) and a longer duration of the dermal reaction (median 8·0 days [IQR 3·5 to 11·5] vs 2·0 days [2·0 to 4·5]) were observed after L3-700 than L3-1000. The mean number of adverse events per participant did not differ between the groups (3·25 [95% CI 1·48 to 5·02] vs 3·00 [1·04 to 4·96]). Thus, L3-700 was used for vaccination in part two. In part two, ten participants were randomly assigned to receive L3-700 and five to placebo. Significantly more adverse events occurred after vaccination with attenuated larvae than with placebo (incident rate ratio [IRR] 2·13 [95% CI 2·09 to 5·51]; p=0·0030). There was no difference between groups in the frequency of adverse events after challenge (IRR 1·25 [0·78 to 2·01]; p=0·36). Most adverse events were mild in severity, with only one severe adverse event reported (erythematous and indurated pruritic rash >100 mm in a vaccine group participant after challenge). The eosinophil count increased in all participants after challenge, with a significantly greater increase among vaccinated participants than placebo participants (1·55 × 10 cells per L [IQR 0·92 to 1·81] in the vaccine group vs 0·49 × 10 cells per L [0·43 to 0·63] in the placebo group; p=0·014). Vaccinated participants had an IgG response to larval extract after challenge that was higher than that in placebo participants (increase in IgG titre 0·22 [IQR 0·10 to 0·41] vs 0·03 [-0·40 to 0·06]; p=0·020). Significantly fewer larvae per g of faeces were recovered in the vaccine group than in the placebo group after challenge (median larvae per g 0·8 [IQR 0·00 to 3·91] vs 10·2 [5·1 to 18·1]; p=0·014). The concentration of N americanus DNA in faeces was not significantly different between the vaccinated group and the placebo group (log DNA intensity 4·28 [95% CI 3·92 to 4·63] vs 4·88 [4·31 to 5·46]; p=0·14). Peripheral blood mononuclear cells from vaccinated participants exhibited significantly greater cytokine production at day 112 than placebo participants for IFNγ, TNFα, IL-2, IL-4, and IL-5 (p<0·05), but not IL-10.

Interpretation: Vaccination with UVC-attenuated N americanus larvae is well tolerated, induces humoral and cellular responses to hookworm antigens, and reduces larval output after challenge with unattenuated larvae. Larger studies are required to confirm protective efficacy.

Funding: National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(21)00153-5DOI Listing
August 2021

Reply to White and Watson.

J Infect Dis 2021 Aug;224(4):739-740

Kirby Institute, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/infdis/jiaa791DOI Listing
August 2021

Seeking an optimal dosing regimen for OZ439/DSM265 combination therapy for treating uncomplicated falciparum malaria.

J Antimicrob Chemother 2021 Aug;76(9):2325-2334

Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia.

Background: The efficacy of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), the first-line treatments for uncomplicated falciparum malaria, has been declining in malaria-endemic countries due to the emergence of malaria parasites resistant to these compounds. Novel alternative therapies are needed urgently to prevent the likely surge in morbidity and mortality due to failing ACTs.

Objectives: This study investigates the efficacy of the combination of two novel drugs, OZ439 and DSM265, using a biologically informed within-host mathematical model.

Methods: A within-host model was developed, which accounts for the differential killing of these compounds against different stages of the parasite's life cycle and accommodates the pharmacodynamic interaction between the drugs. Data of healthy volunteers infected with falciparum malaria collected from four trials (three that administered OZ439 and DSM265 alone, and the fourth a combination of OZ439 and DSM265) were analysed. Model parameters were estimated in a hierarchical Bayesian framework.

Results: The posterior predictive simulations of our model predicted that 800 mg of OZ439 combined with 450 mg of DSM265, which are within the safe and tolerable dose range, can provide above 90% cure rates 42 days after drug administration.

Conclusions: Our results show that the combination of OZ439 and DSM265 can be a promising alternative to replace ACTs. Our model can be used to inform future Phase 2 and 3 clinical trials of OZ439/DSM265, fast-tracking the deployment of this combination therapy in the regions where ACTs are failing. The dosing regimens that are shown to be efficacious and within safe and tolerable limits are suggested for future investigations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jac/dkab181DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8361368PMC
August 2021

Positron emission tomography and magnetic resonance imaging in experimental human malaria to identify organ-specific changes in morphology and glucose metabolism: A prospective cohort study.

PLoS Med 2021 05 26;18(5):e1003567. Epub 2021 May 26.

Clinical Tropical Medicine Laboratory, QIMR-Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Brisbane, Australia.

Background: Plasmodium vivax has been proposed to infect and replicate in the human spleen and bone marrow. Compared to Plasmodium falciparum, which is known to undergo microvascular tissue sequestration, little is known about the behavior of P. vivax outside of the circulating compartment. This may be due in part to difficulties in studying parasite location and activity in life.

Methods And Findings: To identify organ-specific changes during the early stages of P. vivax infection, we performed 18-F fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) positron emission tomography/magnetic resonance imaging (PET/MRI) at baseline and just prior to onset of clinical illness in P. vivax experimentally induced blood-stage malaria (IBSM) and compared findings to P. falciparum IBSM. Seven healthy, malaria-naive participants were enrolled from 3 IBSM trials: NCT02867059, ACTRN12616000174482, and ACTRN12619001085167. Imaging took place between 2016 and 2019 at the Herston Imaging Research Facility, Australia. Postinoculation imaging was performed after a median of 9 days in both species (n = 3 P. vivax; n = 4 P. falciparum). All participants were aged between 19 and 23 years, and 6/7 were male. Splenic volume (P. vivax: +28.8% [confidence interval (CI) +10.3% to +57.3%], P. falciparum: +22.9 [CI -15.3% to +61.1%]) and radiotracer uptake (P. vivax: +15.5% [CI -0.7% to +31.7%], P. falciparum: +5.5% [CI +1.4% to +9.6%]) increased following infection with each species, but more so in P. vivax infection (volume: p = 0.72, radiotracer uptake: p = 0.036). There was no change in FDG uptake in the bone marrow (P. vivax: +4.6% [CI -15.9% to +25.0%], P. falciparum: +3.2% [CI -3.2% to +9.6%]) or liver (P. vivax: +6.2% [CI -8.7% to +21.1%], P. falciparum: -1.4% [CI -4.6% to +1.8%]) following infection with either species. In participants with P. vivax, hemoglobin, hematocrit, and platelet count decreased from baseline at the time of postinoculation imaging. Decrements in hemoglobin and hematocrit were significantly greater in participants with P. vivax infection compared to P. falciparum. The main limitations of this study are the small sample size and the inability of this tracer to differentiate between host and parasite metabolic activity.

Conclusions: PET/MRI indicated greater splenic tropism and metabolic activity in early P. vivax infection compared to P. falciparum, supporting the hypothesis of splenic accumulation of P. vivax very early in infection. The absence of uptake in the bone marrow and liver suggests that, at least in early infection, these tissues do not harbor a large parasite biomass or do not provoke a prominent metabolic response. PET/MRI is a safe and noninvasive method to evaluate infection-associated organ changes in morphology and glucose metabolism.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1003567DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8154100PMC
May 2021

Analytical validation of a real-time hydrolysis probe PCR assay for quantifying Plasmodium falciparum parasites in experimentally infected human adults.

Malar J 2021 Apr 10;20(1):181. Epub 2021 Apr 10.

QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Brisbane, Australia.

Background: Volunteer infection studies have become a standard model for evaluating drug efficacy against Plasmodium infections. Molecular techniques such as qPCR are used in these studies due to their ability to provide robust and accurate estimates of parasitaemia at increased sensitivity compared to microscopy. The validity and reliability of assays need to be ensured when used to evaluate the efficacy of candidate drugs in clinical trials.

Methods: A previously described 18S rRNA gene qPCR assay for quantifying Plasmodium falciparum in blood samples was evaluated. Assay performance characteristics including analytical sensitivity, reportable range, precision, accuracy and specificity were assessed using experimental data and data compiled from phase 1 volunteer infection studies conducted between 2013 and 2019. Guidelines for validation of laboratory-developed molecular assays were followed.

Results: The reportable range was 1.50 to 6.50 log parasites/mL with a limit of detection of 2.045 log parasites/mL of whole blood based on a parasite diluted standard series over this range. The assay was highly reproducible with minimal intra-assay (SD = 0.456 quantification cycle (C) units [0.137 log parasites/mL] over 21 replicates) and inter-assay (SD = 0.604 C units [0.182 log parasites/mL] over 786 qPCR runs) variability. Through an external quality assurance program, the QIMR assay was shown to generate accurate results (quantitative bias + 0.019 log parasites/mL against nominal values). Specificity was 100% after assessing 164 parasite-free human blood samples.

Conclusions: The 18S rRNA gene qPCR assay is specific and highly reproducible and can provide reliable and accurate parasite quantification. The assay is considered fit for use in evaluating drug efficacy in malaria clinical trials.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12936-021-03717-yDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8035755PMC
April 2021

Molecular diagnosis of scabies using a novel probe-based polymerase chain reaction assay targeting high-copy number repetitive sequences in the Sarcoptes scabiei genome.

PLoS Negl Trop Dis 2021 02 24;15(2):e0009149. Epub 2021 Feb 24.

QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Brisbane, Australia.

Background: The suboptimal sensitivity and specificity of available diagnostic methods for scabies hampers clinical management, trials of new therapies and epidemiologic studies. Additionally, parasitologic diagnosis by microscopic examination of skin scrapings requires sample collection with a sharp scalpel blade, causing discomfort to patients and difficulty in children. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based diagnostic assays, combined with non-invasive sampling methods, represent an attractive approach. In this study, we aimed to develop a real-time probe-based PCR test for scabies, test a non-invasive sampling method and evaluate its diagnostic performance in two clinical settings.

Methodology/principal Findings: High copy-number repetitive DNA elements were identified in draft Sarcoptes scabiei genome sequences and used as assay targets for diagnostic PCR. Two suitable repetitive DNA sequences, a 375 base pair microsatellite (SSR5) and a 606 base pair long tandem repeat (SSR6), were identified. Diagnostic sensitivity and specificity were tested using relevant positive and negative control materials and compared to a published assay targeting the mitochondrial cox1 gene. Both assays were positive at a 1:100 dilution of DNA from a single mite; no amplification was observed in DNA from samples from 19 patients with other skin conditions nor from house dust, sheep or dog mites, head and body lice or from six common skin bacterial and fungal species. Moderate sensitivity of the assays was achieved in a pilot study, detecting 5/7 (71.4% [95% CI: 29.0% - 96.3%]) of clinically diagnosed untreated scabies patients). Greater sensitivity was observed in samples collected by FLOQ swabs compared to skin scrapings.

Conclusions/significance: This newly developed qPCR assay, combined with the use of an alternative non-invasive swab sampling technique offers the possibility of enhanced diagnosis of scabies. Further studies will be required to better define the diagnostic performance of these tests.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0009149DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7939366PMC
February 2021

Reduced circulating dendritic cells in acute Plasmodium knowlesi and Plasmodium falciparum malaria despite elevated plasma Flt3 ligand levels.

Malar J 2021 Feb 16;20(1):97. Epub 2021 Feb 16.

Menzies School of Health Research and Charles Darwin University, Darwin, Australia.

Background: Plasmodium falciparum malaria increases plasma levels of the cytokine Fms-like tyrosine kinase 3 ligand (Flt3L), a haematopoietic factor associated with dendritic cell (DC) expansion. It is unknown if the zoonotic parasite Plasmodium knowlesi impacts Flt3L or DC in human malaria. This study investigated circulating DC and Flt3L associations in adult malaria and in submicroscopic experimental infection.

Methods: Plasma Flt3L concentration and blood CD141 DC, CD1c DC and plasmacytoid DC (pDC) numbers were assessed in (i) volunteers experimentally infected with P. falciparum and in Malaysian patients with uncomplicated (ii) P. falciparum or (iii) P. knowlesi malaria.

Results: Plasmodium knowlesi caused a decline in all circulating DC subsets in adults with malaria. Plasma Flt3L was elevated in acute P. falciparum and P. knowlesi malaria with no increase in a subclinical experimental infection. Circulating CD141 DCs, CD1c DCs and pDCs declined in all adults tested, for the first time extending the finding of DC subset decline in acute malaria to the zoonotic parasite P. knowlesi.

Conclusions: In adults, submicroscopic Plasmodium infection causes no change in plasma Flt3L but does reduce circulating DCs. Plasma Flt3L concentrations increase in acute malaria, yet this increase is insufficient to restore or expand circulating CD141 DCs, CD1c DCs or pDCs. These data imply that haematopoietic factors, yet to be identified and not Flt3L, involved in the sensing/maintenance of circulating DC are impacted by malaria and a submicroscopic infection. The zoonotic P. knowlesi is similar to other Plasmodium spp in compromising DC in adult malaria.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12936-021-03642-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7888183PMC
February 2021

Development and evaluation of a new Plasmodium falciparum 3D7 blood stage malaria cell bank for use in malaria volunteer infection studies.

Malar J 2021 Feb 16;20(1):93. Epub 2021 Feb 16.

QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.

Background: New anti-malarial therapeutics are required to counter the threat of increasing drug resistance. Malaria volunteer infection studies (VIS), particularly the induced blood stage malaria (IBSM) model, play a key role in accelerating anti-malarial drug development. Supply of the reference 3D7-V2 Plasmodium falciparum malaria cell bank (MCB) is limited. This study aimed to develop a new MCB, and compare the safety and infectivity of this MCB with the existing 3D7-V2 MCB, in a VIS. A second bank (3D7-V1) developed in 1995 was also evaluated.

Methods: The 3D7-V2 MCB was expanded in vitro using a bioreactor to produce a new MCB designated 3D7-MBE-008. This bank and 3D7-V1 were then evaluated using the IBSM model, where healthy participants were intravenously inoculated with blood-stage parasites. Participants were treated with artemether-lumefantrine when parasitaemia or clinical thresholds were reached. Safety, infectivity and parasite growth and clearance were evaluated.

Results: The in vitro expansion of 3D7-V2 produced 200 vials of the 3D7-MBE-008 MCB, with a parasitaemia of 4.3%. This compares to 0.1% in the existing 3D7-V2 MCB, and < 0.01% in the 3D7-V1 MCB. All four participants (two per MCB) developed detectable P. falciparum infection after inoculation with approximately 2800 parasites. For the 3D7-MBE-008 MCB, the parasite multiplication rate of 48 h (PMR) using non-linear mixed effects modelling was 34.6 (95% CI 18.5-64.6), similar to the parental 3D7-V2 line; parasitaemia in both participants exceeded 10,000/mL by day 8. Growth of the 3D7-V1 was slower (PMR of 11.5 [95% CI 8.5-15.6]), with parasitaemia exceeding 10,000 parasites/mL on days 10 and 8.5. Rapid parasite clearance followed artemether-lumefantrine treatment in all four participants, with clearance half-lives of 4.01 and 4.06 (weighted mean 4.04 [95% CI 3.61-4.57]) hours for 3D7-MBE-008 and 4.11 and 4.52 (weighted mean 4.31 [95% CI 4.16-4.47]) hours for 3D7-V1. A total of 59 adverse events occurred; most were of mild severity with three being severe in the 3D7-MBE-008 study.

Conclusion: The safety, growth and clearance profiles of the expanded 3D7-MBE-008 MCB closely resemble that of its parent, indicating its suitability for future studies.

Trial Registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials registry numbers: P3487 (3D7-V1): ACTRN12619001085167. P3491 (3D7-MBE-008): ACTRN12619001079134.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12936-021-03627-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7885253PMC
February 2021

Randomized, Placebo Controlled Trial of Experimental Hookworm Infection for Improving Gluten Tolerance in Celiac Disease.

Clin Transl Gastroenterol 2020 12;11(12):e00274

Center for Molecular Therapeutics, Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine, James Cook University, Cairns, Australia.

Introduction: Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where intestinal immunopathology arises after gluten consumption. Previous studies suggested that hookworm infection restores gluten tolerance; however, these studies were small (n = 12) and not placebo controlled.

Methods: We undertook a randomized, placebo-controlled trial of hookworm infection in 54 people with celiac disease. The 94-week study involved treatment with either 20 or 40 Necator americanus third-stage larvae (L3-20 or L3-40) or placebo, followed by escalating gluten consumption (50 mg/d for 12 weeks, 1 g intermittent twice weekly for 12 weeks, 2 g/d sustained for 6 weeks, liberal diet for 1 year).

Results: Successful study completion rates at week 42 (primary outcome) were similar in each group (placebo: 57%, L3-20: 37%, and L3-40: 44%; P = 0.61), however gluten-related adverse events were significantly reduced in hookworm-treated participants: Median (range) adverse events/participant were as follows: placebo, 4 (1-9); L3-20, 1 (0-9); and L3-40, 0 (0-3) (P = 0.019). Duodenal villous height:crypt depth deteriorated similarly compared with their enrolment values in each group (mean change [95% confidence interval]: placebo, -0.6 [-1.3 to 0.2]; L3-20, -0.5 [-0.8 to 0.2]; and L3-40, -1.1 [-1.8 to 0.4]; P = 0.12). A retrospective analysis revealed that 9 of the 40 L3-treated participants failed to establish hookworm infections. Although week 42 completion rates were similar in hookworm-positive vs hookworm-negative participants (48% vs 44%, P = 0.43), quality of life symptom scores were lower in hookworm-positive participants after intermittent gluten challenge (mean [95% confidence interval]: 38.9 [33.9-44] vs 45.9 [39.2-52.6]).

Discussion: Hookworm infection does not restore tolerance to sustained moderate consumption of gluten (2 g/d) but was associated with improved symptom scores after intermittent consumption of lower, intermittent gluten doses.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.14309/ctg.0000000000000274DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7678792PMC
December 2020

Semimechanistic Pharmacokinetic and Pharmacodynamic Modeling of Piperaquine in a Volunteer Infection Study with Plasmodium falciparum Blood-Stage Malaria.

Antimicrob Agents Chemother 2021 03 18;65(4). Epub 2021 Mar 18.

Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit, Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand

Dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine is a recommended first-line artemisinin combination therapy for malaria. Piperaquine is also under consideration for other antimalarial combination therapies. The aim of this study was to develop a pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic model that might be useful when optimizing the use of piperaquine in new antimalarial combination therapies. The pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic model was developed using data from a previously reported dose-ranging study where 24 healthy volunteers were inoculated with 1,800 blood-stage parasites. All volunteers received a single oral dose of piperaquine (960 mg, 640 mg, or 480 mg) on day 7 or day 8 after parasite inoculation in separate cohorts. Parasite densities were measured by quantitative PCR (qPCR), and piperaquine levels were measured in plasma samples. We used nonlinear mixed-effect modeling to characterize the pharmacokinetic properties of piperaquine and the parasite dynamics associated with piperaquine exposure. The pharmacokinetics of piperaquine was described by a three-compartment disposition model. A semimechanistic parasite dynamics model was developed to explain the maturation of parasites, sequestration of mature parasites, synchronicity of infections, and multiplication of parasites, as seen in natural clinical infections with malaria. Piperaquine-associated parasite killing was estimated using a maximum effect ( ) function. Treatment simulations (i.e., 3-day oral dosing of dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine) indicated that to be able to combat multidrug-resistant infections, an ideal additional drug in a new antimalarial triple-combination therapy should have a parasite reduction ratio of ≥10 per life cycle (38.8 h) with a duration of action of ≥2 weeks. The semimechanistic pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic model described here offers the potential to be a valuable tool for assessing and optimizing current and new antimalarial drug combination therapies containing piperaquine and the impact of these therapies on killing multidrug-resistant infections. (This study has been registered in the Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry under no. ANZCTRN12613000565741.).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/AAC.01583-20DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8097471PMC
March 2021

Th2-like T Follicular Helper Cells Promote Functional Antibody Production during Infection.

Cell Rep Med 2020 Dec 22;1(9):100157. Epub 2020 Dec 22.

Life Sciences, Burnet Institute, Melbourne, VIC 3004, Australia.

CD4 T follicular helper cells (Tfh) are key drivers of antibody development. During malaria in children, the activation of Tfh is restricted to the Th1 subset and not associated with antibody levels. To identify Tfh subsets that are associated with antibody development in malaria, we assess Tfh and antibodies longitudinally in human volunteers with experimental infection. Tfh cells activate during infection, with distinct dynamics in different Tfh subsets. Th2-Tfh cells activate early, during peak infection, while Th1-Tfh cells activate 1 week after peak infection and treatment. Th2-Tfh cell activation is associated with the functional breadth and magnitude of parasite antibodies. In contrast, Th1-Tfh activation is not associated with antibody development but instead with plasma cells, which have previously been shown to play a detrimental role in the development of long-lived immunity. Thus, our study identifies the contrasting roles of Th2 and Th1-Tfh cells during experimental malaria.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.xcrm.2020.100157DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7762767PMC
December 2020

Epidemiology of soil-transmitted helminth infections in Semarang, Central Java, Indonesia.

PLoS Negl Trop Dis 2020 12 28;14(12):e0008907. Epub 2020 Dec 28.

Department of Global Health, Research School of Population Health, Australian National University, Acton, Australia.

Soil-transmitted helminth (STH) infections are endemic in Indonesia. However, prevalence data for many parts of the country are incomplete. The aim of this study was to determine human STH prevalence and knowledge and practices relating to STH risk behaviour, to provide a current view of the status of STH infection in rural communities in Central Java. A cross-sectional survey of 16 villages was conducted in Semarang, Central Java in 2015. Demographic and household data together with information about knowledge and practices relating to STH and hygiene were elicited through face-to-face interviews. Stool samples were collected and examined using the flotation method. Children (aged 2-12 years) also had their haemoglobin (Hb) levels, height and weight data collected, and BMI estimated. Data were analysed using univariate logistic regression analysis. A total of 6,466 individuals with a mean age of 33.5 years (range: 2-93) from 2,195 households were interviewed. The overall prevalence of STH was 33.8% with Ascaris lumbricoides (roundworm) the predominant nematode identified (prevalence = 26.0%). Hookworm and Trichuris trichiura (whipworm) were found in 7.9% and 1.8% of participants, respectively. Females were at increased odds of infection with A. lumbricoides (adjusted OR 1.14, 95% CI [1.02-1.29], p = 0.02). Adults in age groups 51-60 and over 60 years had the highest odds of being infected with hookworm (adjusted OR 3.01, 95% CI [1.84-4.91], p<0.001 and adjusted OR 3.79, 95% CI [2.30-6.26], p<0.001, respectively) compared to 6-12 year olds. Farmers also had higher odds of being infected with hookworm (adjusted OR 2.36, 95% CI [1.17-4.76], p = 0.02) compared to other occupation categories. Poverty (OR 2.14, 95% CI [1.77-2.58], p<0.001), overcrowding (OR 1.35, 95% CI [1.27-1.44], p<0.001), goat ownership (OR 1.61, 95% CI [1.10-2.41], p = 0.02) and the presence of dry floor space in the home (OR 0.73, 95% CI [0.58-0.91], p = 0.01) were all household factors significantly associated with an increased odds of infection. Infection with STH was not significantly associated with the gastrointestinal illness (p>0.05), BMI or Hb levels; however, one third of all 2-12 year olds surveyed were found to be anaemic (i.e. Hb concentrations below 110g/l or 115g/l for children under 5 and 5 years or older, respectively), with a greater proportion of school-age children at risk. Knowledge and behaviour related to hygiene and gastrointestinal diseases varied widely and were generally not associated with STH infection. The study revealed that STH infection remains endemic in Central Java despite ongoing deworming programs. Current control efforts would benefit from being re-evaluated to determine a more effective way forward.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0008907DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7793285PMC
December 2020

Response to White and Watson.

J Infect Dis 2020 Dec 26. Epub 2020 Dec 26.

Kirby Institute, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/infdis/jiaa791DOI Listing
December 2020

The transcriptome of circulating sexually committed Plasmodium falciparum ring stage parasites forecasts malaria transmission potential.

Nat Commun 2020 12 2;11(1):6159. Epub 2020 Dec 2.

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD, USA.

Malaria is spread by the transmission of sexual stage parasites, called gametocytes. However, with Plasmodium falciparum, gametocytes can only be detected in peripheral blood when they are mature and transmissible to a mosquito, which complicates control efforts. Here, we identify the set of genes overexpressed in patient blood samples with high levels of gametocyte-committed ring stage parasites. Expression of all 18 genes is regulated by transcription factor AP2-G, which is required for gametocytogenesis. We select three genes, not expressed in mature gametocytes, to develop as biomarkers. All three biomarkers we validate in vitro using 6 different parasite lines and develop an algorithm that predicts gametocyte production in ex vivo samples and volunteer infection studies. The biomarkers are also sensitive enough to monitor gametocyte production in asymptomatic P. falciparum carriers allowing early detection and treatment of infectious reservoirs, as well as the in vivo analysis of factors that modulate sexual conversion.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-19988-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7710746PMC
December 2020

Defining the Antimalarial Activity of Cipargamin in Healthy Volunteers Experimentally Infected with Blood-Stage Plasmodium falciparum.

Antimicrob Agents Chemother 2021 01 20;65(2). Epub 2021 Jan 20.

Novartis Pharma AG, Basel, Switzerland.

The spiroindolone cipargamin, a new antimalarial compound that inhibits ATP4, is currently in clinical development. This study aimed to characterize the antimalarial activity of cipargamin in healthy volunteers experimentally infected with blood-stage Eight subjects were intravenously inoculated with parasite-infected erythrocytes and received a single oral dose of 10 mg cipargamin 7 days later. Blood samples were collected to monitor the development and clearance of parasitemia and plasma cipargamin concentrations. Parasite regrowth was treated with piperaquine monotherapy to clear asexual parasites, while allowing gametocyte transmissibility to mosquitoes to be investigated. An initial rapid decrease in parasitemia occurred in all participants following cipargamin dosing, with a parasite clearance half-life of 3.99 h. As anticipated from the dose selected, parasite regrowth occurred in all 8 subjects 3 to 8 days after dosing and allowed the pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic relationship to be determined. Based on the limited data from the single subtherapeutic dose cohort, a MIC of 11.6 ng/ml and minimum parasiticidal concentration that achieves 90% of maximum effect of 23.5 ng/ml were estimated, and a single 95-mg dose (95% confidence interval [CI], 50 to 270) was predicted to clear 10 parasites/ml. Low gametocyte densities were detected in all subjects following piperaquine treatment, which did not transmit to mosquitoes. Serious adverse liver function changes were observed in three subjects, which led to premature study termination. The antimalarial activity characterized in this study supports the further clinical development of cipargamin as a new treatment for malaria, although the hepatic safety profile of the compound warrants further evaluation. (This study has been registered at ClinicalTrials.gov under identifier NCT02543086.).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/AAC.01423-20DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7849011PMC
January 2021

Parasite Viability as a Superior Measure of Antimalarial Drug Activity in Humans.

J Infect Dis 2021 Jun;223(12):2154-2163

Kirby Institute, University of New South Wales (Sydney), Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

Background: Artemisinin derivatives are the leading class of antimalarial drugs due to their rapid onset of action and rapid clearance of circulating parasites. The parasite clearance half-life measures the rate of loss of parasites from blood after treatment, and this is currently used to assess antimalarial activity of novel agents and to monitor resistance. However, a number of recent studies have challenged the use of parasite clearance to measure drug activity, arguing that many circulating parasites may be nonviable.

Methods: Plasmodium falciparum-infected subjects (n = 10) in a malaria volunteer infection study were administered a single dose of artesunate (2 mg/kg). Circulating parasite concentration was assessed by means of quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). Parasite viability after artesunate administration was estimated by mathematical modeling of the ex vivo growth of parasites collected from subjects.

Results: We showed that in artemisinin-sensitive infection, viable parasites declined to <0.1% of baseline within 8 hours after artesunate administration, while the total number of circulating parasites measured with quantitative polymerase chain reaction remained unchanged. In artemisinin-resistant infections over the same interval, viable parasites declined to 51.4% (standard error of the mean, 4.6%) of baseline.

Conclusions: These results demonstrate that in vivo drug activity of artesunate is faster than is indicated by the parasite clearance half-life.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/infdis/jiaa678DOI Listing
June 2021

Early immune suppression leads to uncontrolled mite proliferation and potent host inflammatory responses in a porcine model of crusted versus ordinary scabies.

PLoS Negl Trop Dis 2020 09 4;14(9):e0008601. Epub 2020 Sep 4.

School of Health & Sport Sciences, University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs, Queensland, Australia.

Scabies is a neglected tropical disease of global significance. Our understanding of host-parasite interactions has been limited, particularly in crusted scabies (CS), a severe clinical manifestation involving hyper-infestation of Sarcoptes scabiei mites. Susceptibility to CS may be associated with immunosuppressive conditions but CS has also been seen in cases with no identifiable risk factor or immune deficit. Due to ethical and logistical difficulties with undertaking research on clinical patients with CS, we adopted a porcine model which parallels human clinical manifestations. Transcriptomic analysis using microarrays was used to explore scabies pathogenesis, and to identify early events differentiating pigs with ordinary (OS) and crusted scabies. Pigs with OS (n = 4), CS (n = 4) and non-infested controls (n = 4) were compared at pre-infestation, weeks 1, 2, 4 and 8 post-infestation. In CS relative to OS, there were numerous differentially expressed genes including pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL17A, IL8, IL19, IL20 and OSM) and chemokines involved in immune cell activation and recruitment (CCL20, CCL27 and CXCL6). The influence of genes associated with immune regulation (CD274/PD-L1 and IL27), immune signalling (TLR2, TLR8) and antigen presentation (RFX5, HLA-5 and HLA-DOB) were highlighted in the early host response to CS. We observed similarities with gene expression profiles associated with psoriasis and atopic dermatitis and confirmed previous observations of Th2/17 pronounced responses in CS. This is the first comprehensive study describing transcriptional changes associated with the development of CS and significantly, the distinction between OS and CS. This provides a basis for clinical follow-up studies, potentially identifying new control strategies for this severely debilitating disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0008601DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7508399PMC
September 2020

Safety and parasite clearance of artemisinin-resistant Plasmodium falciparum infection: A pilot and a randomised volunteer infection study in Australia.

PLoS Med 2020 08 21;17(8):e1003203. Epub 2020 Aug 21.

QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Brisbane, Australia.

Background: Artemisinin resistance is threatening malaria control. We aimed to develop and test a human model of artemisinin-resistant (ART-R) Plasmodium falciparum to evaluate the efficacy of drugs against ART-R malaria.

Methods And Findings: We conducted 2 sequential phase 1, single-centre, open-label clinical trials at Q-Pharm, Brisbane, Australia, using the induced blood-stage malaria (IBSM) model, whereby healthy participants are intravenously inoculated with blood-stage parasites. In a pilot study, participants were inoculated (Day 0) with approximately 2,800 viable P. falciparum ART-R parasites. In a comparative study, participants were randomised to receive approximately 2,800 viable P. falciparum ART-R (Day 0) or artemisinin-sensitive (ART-S) parasites (Day 1). In both studies, participants were administered a single approximately 2 mg/kg oral dose of artesunate (AS; Day 9). Primary outcomes were safety, ART-R parasite infectivity, and parasite clearance. In the pilot study, 2 participants were enrolled between April 27, 2017, and September 12, 2017, and included in final analyses (males n = 2 [100%], mean age = 26 years [range, 23-28 years]). In the comparative study, 25 participants were enrolled between October 26, 2017, and October 18, 2018, of whom 22 were inoculated and included in final analyses (ART-R infected participants: males n = 7 [53.8%], median age = 22 years [range, 18-40 years]; ART-S infected participants: males n = 5 [55.6%], median age = 28 years [range, 22-35 years]). In both studies, all participants inoculated with ART-R parasites became parasitaemic. A total of 36 adverse events were reported in the pilot study and 277 in the comparative study. Common adverse events in both studies included headache, pyrexia, myalgia, nausea, and chills; none were serious. Seven participants experienced transient severe falls in white cell counts and/or elevations in liver transaminase levels which were considered related to malaria. Additionally, 2 participants developed ventricular extrasystoles that were attributed to unmasking of a predisposition to benign fever-induced tachyarrhythmia. In the comparative study, parasite clearance half-life after AS was significantly longer for ART-R infected participants (n = 13, 6.5 hours; 95% confidence interval [CI] 6.3-6.7 hours) compared with ART-S infected participants (n = 9, 3.2 hours; 95% CI 3.0-3.3 hours; p < 0.001). The main limitation of this study was that the ART-R and ART-S parasite strains did not share the same genetic background.

Conclusions: We developed the first (to our knowledge) human model of ART-R malaria. The delayed clearance profile of ART-R parasites after AS aligns with field study observations. Although based on a relatively small sample size, results indicate that this model can be safely used to assess new drugs against ART-R P. falciparum.

Trial Registration: The studies were registered with the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry: ACTRN12617000244303 (https://www.anzctr.org.au/Trial/Registration/TrialReview.aspx?id=372357) and ACTRN12617001394336 (https://www.anzctr.org.au/Trial/Registration/TrialReview.aspx?id=373637).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1003203DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7444516PMC
August 2020

Liver Function Test Abnormalities in Experimental and Clinical Infection.

Am J Trop Med Hyg 2020 11;103(5):1910-1917

QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Brisbane, Australia.

Liver transaminase elevations after treatment in malaria volunteer infection studies (VISs) have raised safety concerns. We investigated transaminase elevations from two human VISs where subjects were treated with chloroquine ( = 24) or artefenomel ( = 8) and compared them with studies in Thailand ( = 41) and Malaysia ( = 76). In the VISs, alanine transaminase (ALT) increased to ≥ 2.5 × upper limit of normal (ULN) in 11/32 (34%) volunteers, peaking 5-8 days post-treatment. Transaminase elevations were asymptomatic, were not associated with elevated bilirubin, and resolved by day 42. The risk of an ALT ≥ 2.5 × ULN increased more than 4-fold (odds ratio [OR] 4.28; 95% CI: 1.26-14.59; = 0.02) for every log increase in the parasite clearance burden (PCB), defined as the log-fold reduction in parasitemia 24 hours post-treatment. Although an elevated ALT ≥ 2.5 × ULN was more common after artefenomel than after chloroquine (5/8 [63%] versus 6/24 [25%]; OR 5.0; 95% CI: 0.91-27.47; = 0.06), this risk disappeared when corrected for PCB. Peak ALT also correlated with peak C-reactive protein ( = 0.44; = 0.012). Elevations in ALT (≥ 2.5 × ULN) were less common in malaria-endemic settings, occurring in 1/41 (2.5%) Thai patients treated with artefenomel, and in none of 76 Malaysians treated with chloroquine or artemisinin combination therapy. Post-treatment transaminase elevations are common in experimental infection but do not appear to impact on participant safety. Although the mechanism of these changes remains uncertain, host inflammatory response to parasite clearance may be contributory.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.4269/ajtmh.20-0491DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7646782PMC
November 2020

Identifying thresholds for classifying moderate-to-heavy soil-transmitted helminth intensity infections for FECPAKG2, McMaster, Mini-FLOTAC and qPCR.

PLoS Negl Trop Dis 2020 07 2;14(7):e0008296. Epub 2020 Jul 2.

Department of Parasitology, National Institute of Malariology, Parasitology and Entomology, Ha Noi, Vietnam.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined moderate-to-heavy intensity (M&HI) infections with soil-transmitted helminths (Ascaris lumbricoides, Trichuris trichiura and the two hookworms, Ancylostoma duodenale and Necator americanus) based on specific values of eggs per gram of stool, as measured by the Kato-Katz method. There are a variety of novel microscopy and DNA-based methods but it remains unclear whether applying current WHO thresholds on to these methods allows for a reliable classification of M&HI infections. We evaluated both WHO and method-specific thresholds for classifying the M&HI infections for novel microscopic (FECPAKG2, McMaster and Mini-FLOTAC) and DNA-based (qPCR) diagnostic methods. For this, we determined method-specific thresholds that best classified M&HI infections (defined by Kato-Katz and WHO thresholds; reference method) in two multi-country drug efficacy studies. Subsequently, we verified whether applying these method-specific thresholds improved the agreement in classifying M&HI infections compared to the reference method. When we applied the WHO thresholds, the new microscopic methods mainly misclassified M&HI as low intensity, and to a lesser extent low intensity infection as M&HI. For FECPAKG2, applying the method-specific thresholds significantly improved the agreement for Ascaris (moderate → substantial), Trichuris and hookworms (fair → moderate). For Mini-FLOTAC, a significantly improved agreement was observed for hookworms only (fair → moderate). For the other STHs, the agreement was almost perfect and remained unchanged. For McMaster, the method-specific thresholds revealed a fair to a substantial agreement but did not significantly improve the agreement. For qPCR, the method-specific thresholds based on genome equivalents per ml of DNA moderately agreed with the reference method for hookworm and Trichuris infections. For Ascaris, there was a substantial agreement. We defined method-specific thresholds that improved the classification of M&HI infections. Validation studies are required before they can be recommended for general use in assessing M&HI infections in programmatic settings.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0008296DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7413557PMC
July 2020

Assays for quantification of male and female gametocytes in human blood by qRT-PCR in the absence of pure sex-specific gametocyte standards.

Malar J 2020 Jun 23;19(1):218. Epub 2020 Jun 23.

QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.

Background: Malaria transmission from humans to Anopheles mosquitoes requires the presence of gametocytes in human peripheral circulation, and the dynamics of transmission are determined largely by the density and sex ratio of the gametocytes. Molecular methods are thus employed to measure gametocyte densities, particularly when assessing transmission epidemiology and the efficacy of transmission-blocking interventions. However, accurate quantification of male and female gametocytes with molecular methods requires pure male and female gametocytes as reference standards, which are not widely available.

Methods: qRT-PCR assays were used to quantify levels of sex-specific mRNA transcripts in Plasmodium falciparum female and male gametocytes (pfs25 and pfMGET, respectively) using synthetic complimentary RNA standards and in vitro cultured gametocytes. Assays were validated and assay performance was investigated in blood samples of clinical trial participants using these standards and compared to absolute quantification by droplet digital PCR (ddPCR).

Results: The number of transcript copies per gametocyte were determined to be 279.3 (95% CI 253.5-307.6) for the female-specific transcript pfs25, and 12.5 (95% CI 10.6-14.9) for the male-specific transcript pfMGET. These numbers can be used to convert from transcript copies/mL to gametocyte/mL. The reportable range was determined to be 5.71 × 10 to 5.71 female gametocytes/mL for pfs25, and 1.73 × 10 to 1.73 × 10 male gametocytes/mL for pfMGET. The limit of detection was 3.9 (95% CI 2.5-8.2) female gametocytes/mL for pfs25, and 26.9 (95% CI 19.3-51.7) male gametocytes/mL for PfMGET. Both assays showed minimal intra-assay and inter-assay variability with coefficient of variation < 3%. No cross-reactivity was observed in both assays in uninfected human blood samples. Comparison of results from ddPCR to qRT-PCR assays on clinical blood samples indicated a high-level agreement (ICC = 0.998 for pfs25 and 0.995 for pfMGET).

Conclusions: This study reports the validation of qRT-PCR assays that are able to accurately quantify female and male P. falciparum gametocytes at sub-microscopic densities. The assays showed excellent reproducibility, sensitivity, precision, specificity, and accuracy. The methodology will enable the estimation of gametocyte density in the absence of pure female and male gametocyte standards, and will facilitate clinical trials and epidemiological studies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12936-020-03291-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7310411PMC
June 2020

Transcriptional profiling and immunophenotyping show sustained activation of blood monocytes in subpatent infection.

Clin Transl Immunology 2020 18;9(6):e1144. Epub 2020 Jun 18.

Menzies School of Health Research Darwin NT Australia.

Objectives: Malaria, caused by infection, remains a major global health problem. Monocytes are integral to the immune response, yet their transcriptional and functional responses in primary infection and in clinical malaria are poorly understood.

Methods: The transcriptional and functional profiles of monocytes were examined in controlled human malaria infection with blood stages and in children and adults with acute malaria. Monocyte gene expression and functional phenotypes were examined by RNA sequencing and flow cytometry at peak infection and compared to pre-infection or at convalescence in acute malaria.

Results: In subpatent primary infection, the monocyte transcriptional profile was dominated by an interferon (IFN) molecular signature. Pathways enriched included type I IFN signalling, innate immune response and cytokine-mediated signalling. Monocytes increased TNF and IL-12 production upon toll-like receptor stimulation and increased IL-10 production upon parasite restimulation. Longitudinal phenotypic analyses revealed sustained significant changes in the composition of monocytes following infection, with increased CD14CD16 and decreased CD14CD16 subsets. In acute malaria, monocyte CD64/FcγRI expression was significantly increased in children and adults, while HLA-DR remained stable. Although children and adults showed a similar pattern of differentially expressed genes, the number and magnitude of gene expression change were greater in children.

Conclusions: Monocyte activation during subpatent malaria is driven by an IFN molecular signature with robust activation of genes enriched in pathogen detection, phagocytosis, antimicrobial activity and antigen presentation. The greater magnitude of transcriptional changes in children with acute malaria suggests monocyte phenotypes may change with age or exposure.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/cti2.1144DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7302943PMC
June 2020

Antimalarial activity of artefenomel against asexual parasites and transmissible gametocytes during experimental blood-stage Plasmodium vivax infection.

J Infect Dis 2020 Jun 1. Epub 2020 Jun 1.

QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Herston QLD, Australia.

Background: Interventions that effectively target Plasmodium vivax are critical for the future control and elimination of malaria. We conducted a P. vivax volunteer infection study to characterise the antimalarial activity of artefenomel, a new drug candidate.

Methods: Eight healthy, malaria-naïve participants were intravenously inoculated with blood-stage P. vivax and subsequently received a single oral 200 mg dose of artefenomel. Blood samples were collected to monitor the development and clearance of parasitemia, and plasma artefenomel concentration. Mosquito feeding assays were conducted prior to artefenomel dosing to investigate parasite transmissibility.

Results: Initial parasite clearance occurred in all participants following artefenomel administration (log10 parasite reduction ratio over 48 hours 1.67; parasite clearance half-life 8.67 h). Recrudescence occurred in 7 participants 11-14 days after dosing. A minimum inhibitory concentration of 0.62 ng/mL and minimum parasiticidal concentration that achieves 90% of maximum effect of 0.83 ng/mL was estimated, and a single 300 mg dose was predicted to clear 109 parasites/mL with 95% certainty. Gametocytemia developed in all participants and was cleared 4-8 days after dosing. At peak gametocytemia, 75% of participants were infectious to mosquitoes.

Conclusions: The in vivo antimalarial activity of artefenomel supports its further clinical development as a treatment for P. vivax malaria.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/infdis/jiaa287DOI Listing
June 2020

Infection-induced plasmablasts are a nutrient sink that impairs humoral immunity to malaria.

Nat Immunol 2020 07 18;21(7):790-801. Epub 2020 May 18.

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, USA.

Plasmodium parasite-specific antibodies are critical for protection against malaria, yet the development of long-lived and effective humoral immunity against Plasmodium takes many years and multiple rounds of infection and cure. Here, we report that the rapid development of short-lived plasmablasts during experimental malaria unexpectedly hindered parasite control by impeding germinal center responses. Metabolic hyperactivity of plasmablasts resulted in nutrient deprivation of the germinal center reaction, limiting the generation of memory B cell and long-lived plasma cell responses. Therapeutic administration of a single amino acid to experimentally infected mice was sufficient to overcome the metabolic constraints imposed by plasmablasts and enhanced parasite clearance and the formation of protective humoral immune memory responses. Thus, our studies not only challenge the current model describing the role and function of blood-stage Plasmodium-induced plasmablasts but they also reveal new targets and strategies to improve anti-Plasmodium humoral immunity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41590-020-0678-5DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7316608PMC
July 2020

Population Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics of Chloroquine in a Plasmodium vivax Volunteer Infection Study.

Clin Pharmacol Ther 2020 11 2;108(5):1055-1066. Epub 2020 Jul 2.

QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Brisbane, Australia.

Chloroquine has been used for the treatment of malaria for > 70 years; however, chloroquine pharmacokinetic (PK) and pharmacodynamic (PD) profile in Plasmodium vivax malaria is poorly understood. The objective of this study was to describe the PK/PD relationship of chloroquine and its major metabolite, desethylchloroquine, in a P. vivax volunteer infection study. We analyzed data from 24 healthy subjects who were inoculated with blood-stage P. vivax malaria and administered a standard treatment course of chloroquine. The PK of chloroquine and desethylchloroquine was described by a two-compartment model with first-order absorption and elimination. The relationship between plasma and whole blood concentrations of chloroquine and P. vivax parasitemia was characterized by a PK/PD delayed response model, where the equilibration half-lives were 32.7 hours (95% confidence interval (CI) 27.4-40.5) for plasma data and 24.1 hours (95% CI 19.0-32.7) for whole blood data. The estimated parasite multiplication rate was 17 folds per 48 hours (95% CI 14-20) and maximum parasite killing rate by chloroquine was 0.213 hour (95% CI 0.196-0.230), translating to a parasite clearance half-life of 4.5 hours (95% CI 4.1-5.0) and a parasite reduction ratio of 400 every 48 hours (95% CI 320-500). This is the first study that characterized the PK/PD relationship between chloroquine plasma and whole blood concentrations and P. vivax clearance using a semimechanistic population PK/PD modeling. This PK/PD model can be used to optimize dosing scenarios and to identify optimal dosing regimens for chloroquine where resistance to chloroquine is increasing.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/cpt.1893DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7276750PMC
November 2020
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