I went to Oxford and all I got was a lousy parasite infectionAs you could read on this blog, the fourth of July I went to Oxford to join a malaria vaccine trial and got injected with 1,000 P. falciparum infected red blood cells.
That sounds perhaps like a lot of parasites, but to calculate the parasitemia (percentage of red blood cells infected) you should divide this number by the number of red blood cells in one mL blood, which is actually really a lot:
So, let's make the calculation: 70,000 parasite infected red blood cells in a total of 5 billion red blood cells gives you a parasitemia that could come straight out of the mouth of Tour de France's cyclist Alberto Contador:
Such a low parasitemia (hospitals frequently see patients with more that 5% infected red blood cells) gave me symptoms that already kept me in bed for most of the day... These got even more severe after I started the therapy because when the parasites start dying, the infected red blood cell ruptures (cell lysis) and all the toxic products enter your bloodstream.
The resulting inflammation induces fever, chills, sweating, headaches, fatigue...So yes, this eventually happened on Tuesday:
But after 60 hours of therapy, I was ready to head back to Belgium... Just in time for Gentse Feesten.
|Ghent skyline from CEVAC's research building at sunrise|
I'm glad to be cured quickly and that I was able to get a small glimpse of what malaria is.
Malaria is no joke. End malaria now!I think we have sat around too long. Every minute, a child dies of malaria and many more have to endure the disease, recover, and get infected again..
Malaria is 100% preventable and treatable. Yet, more than 200 million people get malaria each year.
As a scientist working on malaria, I got inspired to work harder by entering this vaccine trial. We should all remember sometimes why we study malaria...
My plan for Plasmodium parasites?
Back to work.
If you would be interested in joining a clinical malaria challenge you can always check these websites: