Improving naval navigation
In 1714, the original Longitude prize was launched to help mariners have a more accurate means to determine their position at sea. Until then, most navigation relied on astronomy to determine longitude: the east-west position. John Harrison produced a clock that could keep time accurately at sea, making it possible to navigate by calculating the time distance from Greenwich Mean Time & hence longitude. His ‘marine chronometer’ made navigation safer and thereby also helped expand trade across the globe.
This summer, a prize has been launched as an incentive to encourage new ideas in the search for better detection of antibiotic resistance. This is based on a historic challenge, which aimed to find an accurate method of determining longitude at sea, as poor navigation and shipwrecks were costing thousands of lives (outlined in box). Renewing this idea for the 21st century, the 2014 Longitude prize was announced earlier this year http://www.longitudeprize.org, to encourage everyone to participate in solving this problem.
What does the antibiotics challenge ask?
“The focus of the £10m award will go to the best idea for a cheap, fast and accurate detector for bacteria and their associated antibiotic resistance mechanisms that could help better guide treatment.” The successful design will enable clinicians to use the most appropriate antibiotics for each patient, making the best use of our arsenal of drugs; extending their useful life, whilst preventing the spread and / or development of resistance.
If you’re interested, sign up now! The competition is open to everyone to register (Register your interest), and then entries can be made from this autumn onwards, according to the timeline below:
How might the antibiotics challenge relate to malaria?
Similar strategies could be used to help rationalise our use of antimalarials
Some antibiotics are effective against Plasmodium spp (eg doxycycline) so increased development and easier screening of compounds could also identify novel antimalarials
Rapid methods to assess drug efficacy may aid detection of fake drugs, which often contain less active compound than their licenced counterparts, facilitating development of resistance
Developing novel rapid diagnostics for bacteria may help design better malaria detection methods too, improving the utility of the rapid diagnostic tests that are already available.
 Dondorp AM, Nosten F, Yi P, et al. (2009). Artemisinin Resistance in Plasmodium falciparum Malaria. New England Journal of Medicine. 361:455-467.
 Phyo AP, Nkhoma S, Stepniewska K, et al. (2012). Emergence of artemisinin-resistant malaria on the western border of Thailand: a longitudinal study. The Lancet. 379: 1960-1966.
 Kublin JG, Cortese JF, Njunju EM, et al. (2003). Re-emergence of Chloroquine-Sensitive Plasmodium falciparum Malaria after Cessation of Chloroquine Use in Malawi. The Journal of Infectious Diseases. 187: 1870-1875.
 Kebede S, Medhin G, Berhe N, et al. (2014). Return of chloroquine-sensitive Plasmodium falciparum parasites and emergence of chloroquine-resistant Plasmodium vivax in Ethiopia. Malaria Journal. 13:244.
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 Hendriksen ICE, Mwanga-Amumpaire J, von Seidlein L, et al. (2012). Diagnosing Severe Falciparum Malaria in Parasitaemic African Children: A Prospective Evaluation of Plasma PfHRP2 Measurement. PLoS Medicine. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001297
Jenni Lawton is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Glasgow, UK. Her research interests focus on the interactions between Plasmodium infected red blood cells (iRBCs) and the host; dynamic processes which are still incompletely understood. The behaviour of iRBCs may have important implications both in generating effective immune responses and in the escalation of some malaria infections towards severe complications. This will be her first foray into communications and she hopes to provide some interesting perspectives from the lab to the Malaria World community!