Efforts in the O’Meara team follow two main themes:

Rational drug use, overuse, and resistance

Antimicrobial resistance is a global threat that kills more people than car accidents every year in the U.S. Overuse of antimicrobials, including antimalarials, threatens the useful therapeutic life of these drugs. Improving access to diagnostic testing can reduce unnecessary consumption of antimalarials. Our group is testing innovative incentive strategies to try to increase uptake of, and adherence to, diagnostic testing in an effort to improve rational use of antimalarials and reduce the likelihood of spread of resistance. We are working in both the formal health sector and the informal, retail sector. Read more here:

The malaria reservoir – micro-scale studies of malaria transmission

Malaria is highly heterogeneous in a population – 20% of individuals experience 80% of cases. This heterogeneity contributes to malaria persistence but is poorly understood. Our team is working on identifying individual transmission events from human to mosquito and mosquito to human by using next-generation sequencing approaches of key parasite genes and matching infections between these two hosts. Read more about this innovative study that combines high-resolution human and entomological sampling with cutting edge genetic tools.

We are extending the use of genetic tools to understand transmission networks in areas where malaria is an emerging problem. Pastoral communities in the semi-arid regions of northern Kenya were historically considered outside of the malaria risk map. But these areas are rapidly changing and experiencing increased settlement, many more migrants from all over east Africa, and changing lifestyle, attributed in large part to oil discovery and the influx of people, money, and infrastructure that accompanies resource extraction. Read about our work using parasite genetics to understand this emerging health threat in and measure parasite importation in this unique ecosystem.

Like any good scientific team, we sometimes explore new areas and important public health questions a bit outside of our main lane. Read about these other exciting projects here. 

Malaria prevention

EPiTOMISE – Enhancing Preventive Therapy Of Malaria in children with Sickle cell anemia in East Africa

In Africa, 240,000 children are born each year with sickle cell anemia and most of them will die before their 5th birthday. One of the major killers is malaria, but guidelines for chemoprevention rely on old drugs and lack sufficient evidence-base. Here is what we are doing about it.

What is threatening the efficacy of insecticide treated nets?

In some places, ITN coverage exceeds 90% and yet malaria cases continue practically unabated. Why?

Non-malaria febrile illness

Many febrile illnesses which are treated as malaria are not due to malaria parasites. So what other pathogens are responsible for these acute non-specific illnesses? Our team investigated this and found a high burden of tick-borne rickettsial infections. Read more here.

Access to health care – impact on childhood outcomes

More than 3 million children die each year in sub-Saharan Africa from preventable causes. Although basic interventions could prevent most of these deaths, weak health systems are limiting the reach and effectiveness of these life-saving interventions. We are working on quantifying the impact of the health service delivery context on child mortality in order to encourage investment in the underlying health system as a crucial intervention to reduce early childhood deaths.