Leading the way through cutting edge anti-malarial research

Cristiano Macuamule has joined the ranks of outstanding Australia Awards Alumni whose contributions to shaping outcomes go beyond Africa to impacting a world problem: the fight to combat malaria. He has done so through his focused research on anti-malarial chemotherapy.

In Africa, malaria is one of the main causes of death. According to World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates, there were about 219 million cases of malaria in 2010 and an estimated 660,000 deaths. Africa remains the most affected continent with about 90% of all malaria deaths occurring in the continent (WHO, World Malaria Report 2012).

In June 2013, Cristiano defended his PhD thesis titled Pantothenate and coenzyme A biosynthesis and utilization by Plasmodium falciparum: drug targets for antimalarial chemotherapy at the South African-based Stellenbosch University (SUN). Working with colleagues from the Australian National University (ANU), he has also co-published two related research articles in peer reviewed, well-known international journals (February and June 2013).

Recently, Cristiano resumed his role as lecturer and researcher of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University Eduardo Mondlane (UEM) in Mozambique where his enhanced skills and knowledge will no doubt continue to advance larger objectives. He leaves behind a strong legacy and continuation: three graduate and post-graduate level students in Australia and three others at SUN are currently using some of the techniques developed by Cristiano in their studies and benefiting from his mentorship through their research supervisors.

Cristiano, who in 2005 obtained a Master’s of Veterinary Studies from the University of Queensland (UQ) on a scholarship funded by the Australian government, is also one of the first recipients of funding from the Australia Awards Small Grants Scheme. In 2012, he received a grant to further his PhD research by conducting a series of experiments to assess how some potential new anti-malarial compounds kill the malaria parasite, i.e. their mode of action.

This visit resulted in Cristiano being able to narrow down a long list of over 140 compounds to a short list of 12 promising compounds, one of which could be the anti-malaria drug answer. This visit also paved the way for a stronger relationship between the research groups at ANU and SUN, with joint research and co-publication of articles being an example of such collaboration.

“I am grateful for the opportunities I have been offered by the Australia Awards program, both the scholarship to attain a Master’s at the University of Queensland and the Small Grants, which allowed me to progress in my PhD research. These experiences also built solid skills and knowledge that no doubt played a role in my career advancement.”

Cristiano’s research can potentially lead to a new anti-malarial drug being developed in the near future as a result of the experiments he carried out and the ensuing research.

Cristiano’s thirst for knowledge and enhanced skills does not stop here. He completed his Master’s of Veterinary Studies in 2005 and a PhD in Biochemistry in 2013, and is currently pursuing yet another Master’s in Global Health and Infectious Diseases at the University of Edinburgh. He believes that knowledge, persistence and advanced skills are the answer to shaping desired outcomes.

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