Image: Malaria cells; PhD student Kerryn Moore, awarded the Aileen Plant Memorial Prize
Burnet PhD candidate Kerryn Moore has been awarded the Aileen Plant Memorial Prize, with her research expected to transform treatment of pregnant women with malaria globally.
She won the prize for a paper on the safety of artemisinin treatment of falciparum malaria in the first trimester of pregnancy, published in The Lancet in February 2016.
Her analysis of data from the Thailand-Myanmar border was combined with data from Africa and presented to the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2015.
This work led to a recommendation by a WHO evidence review group that treatment guidelines for pregnant women should change from quinine to the more effective artemisinin-based antimalarials.
Previously artemisinin-based antimalarials were not recommended during the first trimester of pregnancy, despite being the most effective drug available, because their safety during this period was unknown.
However, it is expected WHO guidelines are now likely to change to allow the more effective treatment.
The Aileen Plant Memorial Prize is awarded annually for a first author paper by an Australian researcher in the area of infectious disease epidemiology.
Ms Moore is a PhD candidate at Burnet Institute and the University of Melbourne, studying malaria in pregnant women under the supervision of Associate Professor Freya Fowkes, Associate Professor Julie Simpson, and Professor Rose McGready.
Associate Professor Fowkes said the award was testament to Ms Moore’s expertise and accomplishments in the field of malaria in pregnancy.
“Kerryn’s research will transform treatment of malaria in 125 million women at-risk during pregnancy,” Associate Professor Fowkes said.
“There is no doubt she is destined for a stellar international career as an infectious disease epidemiologist.”
Ms Moore is based part-time at the Shoklo Malaria Research Unit (SMRU) – a field station of the Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University – on the Thai-Myanmar border.
“It’s exciting to have your work recognised,” Ms Moore said of the award, adding that being a part of influencing WHO guidelines was ‘probably the most rewarding part of my PhD’.
“I’ve been extremely lucky with my PhD because the Shoklu Malaria Research Unit (SMRU) has allowed me to analyse its data … and the SMRU has a strong reputation in that field.”
Ms Moore has travelled to the Thai-Myanmar border four times during her PhD to work at SMRU. She plans to submit her PhD in September this year and seek a post-doctorate fellowship in epidemiology.
“I’d like to continue in either malaria or maternal child health research, or both, depending on what opportunities are available,” she said.