Dr Colin Sutherland
BSc PhD MPH
Colin is a biologist and parasitologist who joined the School in January 1998 to work as a Post-Doc with Professor Geoffrey Targett on the gametocytes of Plasmodium falciparum. Colin began working on parasite drug resistance in the context of the team's clinical studies in The Gambia from 1998 - 2002. From 2004 - 2011, while continuing his studies of parasite drug susceptibility, Colin developed new projects on molecular diagnostics for parasitology with Peter Chiodini and Spencer Polley in the Department of Clinical Parasitology at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, and continues to work closely with the UK Health Security Agency in the Malaria Reference Laboratory, LSHTM as HCPC-registered Clinical Scientist.
Understandng of the evolutionary biology of parasitism remains the context underpinning all Colin's studies, and the tools of molecular genetics and genomics are the means used to address this goal. Parasite adaptation to the two great selective forces of host immunity and antimicrobial chemotherapy has been of particular interest.
Among Colin's current roles are
- Deputy Director (Science) of the UK Health Security Agency Malaria Reference Laboratory
- President of the British Society for Parasitology
Colin contributes lectures to students studying for MSc degrees and the DTM&H. He has supervised more than 30 MSc summer research projects in the laboratory.
Colin's lab group has been involved in training researchers from a number of malaria endemic countries in techniques for molecular genotyping of malaria parasites. Trainees and students have hailed from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, China, Guinea-Conakry, Indonesia, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, The Philippines, Senegal, Sudan, Tanzania, Thailand and The Gambia, and include scientists, clinicians, doctoral students and research assistants.
Colin also contributes to a number of PhD examinations each year. Recent candidates have included students from the Universities of Keele, Cambridge, Copenhagen and the Australian National University.
Recently completed doctoral students:
Inke Nadia Lubis (Indonesia) - "Clinical efficacy of artemisinin-based combination therapy for uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria in North Sumatera, Indonesia, and the association of molecular markers with treatment outcomes"
Completed: Jan 2018
Ryan Henrici (USA) - "Manipulation of artemisinin susceptibility in African malaria parasites by genome editing"
Completed: June 2018
Fiona Shilliday (UK - joint student with Birkbeck) - "Members of the kinesin-8 and -13 motor families in P. falciparum: their putative roles in parasite cell division and potential as novel anti-malarial drug targets"
Completed: June 2019
Current PhD candidates:
Julian Muwanguzi-Karugaba (UK / Uganda) - "Evaluating sulfadoxine susceptibility in vitro to determine the impact of pfdhps haplotype diversity in Plasmodium falciparum"
Expected completion: 2022
Rich CHilds-Hunt (UK) - "Diversity and therapeutic susceptibility of Acanthamoeba causing keratitis in UK patients" (supported by Fight for Sight)
Colin's research falls into 3 main areas: Plasmodium falciparum gametocyte biology, malaria drug resistance and molecular diagnostics for malaria infections. The following projects are currently active in the lab:
1) Drug resistant genotypes associated with reduced susceptibility of African P. falciparum
The Sutherland lab works with collaborators throughout Africa running trials and studies evaluating ACT efficacy, and the effectiveness of seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC). Our earlier work in western Kenya identified mutations in the P. falciparum genes, pfubp1 and pfap2mu that are associated with reduced susceptibility to ACT in vivo. Our data clearly show that determinants of susceptibility in Africa differ from those recently described in Cambodia.
More recently, Ryan Henrici generated transgenic P. falciparum to examine the role of polymorphisms in the pfap2mu and pfubp1 loci in modulating parasite response to antimalarial drugs in vitro. Variants at either of these loci reduce P. falciparum artemisinin susceptibility in vitro. Four years of MRC project funding to support this work was secured in 2020.
The deletion of genes encoding histidine-rich antigens is a fascinating adaptation by P. falciparum populations, particularly in east Africa, to the widespread use of HRPII-based diagnostic tests. By appearing "invisible" to the test, the parasite reduce th likelihood that drugs will be administered. Khalid Beshir is leading innovative work to identify and map these deletions in natural parasite populations.
2) New molecular tools for surveillance of parasitic infections
The UK Health Security Agency (formerly PHE) is supporting the development of new assays for parasite genotyping in the Malaria Reference Laboratory (MRL) at LSHTM, with Dr Debbie Nolder, and Lindsay Stewart. New real-time qPCR assays for Plasmodium falciparum, P. vivax and P. ovale spp. have been developed and have entered routine diagnostic use. Currently we are bench-testing new specieis specific PCR detection assays for P. malariae, a ubiquitous but little studied human malaria parasite. This is complementary to exciting parasite genome studies with Prof Susana Campino and her team in the LSHTM Dept of Infection Biology. The MRL is also working with support from hVivo to provide robust qPCR monitoring of P. falciparum growth and subsequent drug clearance for volunteers participating in controlled human malaria infections (CHMI).
3) Population biology of P. ovale curtisi and P. ovale wallikeri
Dr Mary Oguike led work on these two distinct forms of malaria parasite, first described in 2010 as part of Colin's work in the UK Malaria Reference Laboratory, up to 2018. Mary successfully generated Ilumina paired-end genome seq data direct from blood samples from patients with ovale malaria. With Dr Mojca Kristan and Dr Julius Hafalla we have developed a mosquito transmission pipeline, and in have successfully infected cultured human hepatocytes with sporozoites from P. ovale spp. Together with Susana Campino at LSHTM genomic analyses of these are two sibling species are continuing, using material from UK travellers provided by the MRL.
4) In vitro drug responses of parasites isolated from UK malaria patients
As Clinical Scientist in the UKHSA Malaria Reference Laboratory, Colin has direct access to parasite isolates from malaria patients who have returned to or visited the UK from malaria-endemic countries. Dr Don van Schalkwyk has successfully adapted more than 25 P. falciparum cultures from across Africa to long-term in vitro growth since 2012. In MRC-funded work led by Don van Schalkwyk and Sade Pratt, we are now investigating impact of certain gene variants on in vitro artemisinin and partner drug susceptibility of African P. falciparum isolates.
In January 2017 we published a case series of four malaria patients that experienced recurrent malaria symptoms 3-7 weeks after treatment with artemether-lumefantrine, the front-line antimalarial in the UK. This report, which inlcuded genetic analysis of several candidate resistance loci, generated significant media interest at the time of publication. We have since gathered evidence and parasite genoptype information for 16 more such cases of ACT treatment failure in UK patients with P. falciparum infections.
5) In vitro drug susceptibility of P. knowlesi, P. malariae and P. ovale spp.
The Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) supporting work by Don van Schalkwyk, together with the lab of LSHTM colleague Dr Robert Moon, in which we have successfully established robust in vitro susceptibility assays for the zoonotic parasite P. knowlesi. We have used this to screen investigational lead compounds for activity against other non-falciparum malaria, and have identified important differences in drug susceptibility among the six human parasite species.
6) EDCTP-funded studies of ACT therapy for children with malaria in West Africa
The WANECAM II consortium, coordinated by Prof Abdoulaye Djimde in Bamako, builds on the previous work of WANECAM. We have EDCTP funding to provide molecular analyses of clinical trials of the new drug co-formulation KAF156 (ganaplacide) plus lumefantrine, being trialled in several west African countries. Julian Muwanguzi-Karugaba is our lead on this work.