Brookline High School
Infectious Disease and Microbiome
Malaria is responsible for approximately 500,000 deaths every year, with about 91% of malaria deaths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa. The recommended treatment for malaria caused by the Plasmodium falciparium parasite is artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT), which combines two or more active ingredients.
The therapeutic effectiveness of ACTs is currently threatened by the recent emergence of artemisinin-resistant parasites in Southeast Asia. Researchers have identified over twenty mutations in the P. falciparum gene kelch13 that are associated with drug resistance, but the exact mechanism that leads to resistance is unknown. Mohammed examined 8 additional kelch domain-containing genes to look at patterns of long-term evolution across Plasmodium species. He also analyzed kelch domains in P. falciparum from different global regions to try and identify instances of short-term selection. Mohammed's work in genes related to kelch13 is allowing researchers to better contextualize the mutations that lead to drug resistance. This increased understanding can help prevent the spread of artemisinin-resistant parasites to other parts of the world, minimizing its effect on the disease’s fatality rate.
“My favorite part about working at the Broad was the freedom, independence, and trust that the institute and specifically my mentor gave me. My ideas were welcomed, my work was valued, and I was free to pursue what interested me in a way that wouldn’t be true in a more structured learning environment,” said Mohammed. His experience reinstated a desire to undertake scientific research as a career.