Dr Charlie Woodrow

Research Area: Global Health
Scientific Themes: Tropical Medicine & Global Health
Keywords: malaria, Thailand, myanmar, artemisinins and resistance
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Charlie Woodrow is a clinician-scientist who has been based in MORU since 2009, his arrival coinciding with the emergence of artemisinin resistance in Southeast Asia. His main role over this time has been to co-ordinate clinical and laboratory studies on resistance to artemisinins and partner drugs, collaborating with a range of MORU researchers and external groups to bring together diverse datasets of clinical, in vitro and molecular data. Most recently, Charlie has led a countrywide survey of the K13 artemisinin resistance marker in Myanmar. In September 2014, he was an invited member of the WHO Expert Review Group on K13.

Charlie is also a Scientific Advisor to WWARN’s in vitro module, and was a driving force behind the development of WWARN’s IVART tool which allows analysis of large in vitro datasets via a free, online server. The tool is now the preferred analysis method for a number of in vitro scientists. Charlie also leads MORU’s collaborative work on malaria in Afghanistan.

Charlie is a Visiting Professor at Mahidol University, and plays an active role in the Faculty of Tropical Medicine’s Molecular Tropical Medicine and Genetics Department. His particular interests include antimalarial drug resistance, evolutionary aspects of malaria biology, parasite clearance mechanisms and the diagnosis of uncomplicated and severe malaria.

Prior to joining MORU, Charlie was an MRC Clinician Scientist Fellow. He is a Consultant Physician with an Honorary Contract at the John NHS Hospitals NHS Trust, and takes part in the acute general medicine on-call rota.

There are no collaborations listed for this principal investigator.

Mok S, Ashley EA, Ferreira PE, Zhu L, Lin Z, Yeo T, Chotivanich K, Imwong M et al. 2015. Drug resistance. Population transcriptomics of human malaria parasites reveals the mechanism of artemisinin resistance. Science, 347 (6220), pp. 431-435. Read abstract | Read more

Artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum threatens global efforts to control and eliminate malaria. Polymorphisms in the kelch domain-carrying protein K13 are associated with artemisinin resistance, but the underlying molecular mechanisms are unknown. We analyzed the in vivo transcriptomes of 1043 P. falciparum isolates from patients with acute malaria and found that artemisinin resistance is associated with increased expression of unfolded protein response (UPR) pathways involving the major PROSC and TRiC chaperone complexes. Artemisinin-resistant parasites also exhibit decelerated progression through the first part of the asexual intraerythrocytic development cycle. These findings suggest that artemisinin-resistant parasites remain in a state of decelerated development at the young ring stage, whereas their up-regulated UPR pathways mitigate protein damage caused by artemisinin. The expression profiles of UPR-related genes also associate with the geographical origin of parasite isolates, further suggesting their role in emerging artemisinin resistance in the Greater Mekong Subregion. Hide abstract

Imwong M, Woodrow CJ, Hendriksen IC, Veenemans J, Verhoef H, Faiz MA, Mohanty S, Mishra S et al. 2015. Plasma concentration of parasite DNA as a measure of disease severity in falciparum malaria. J Infect Dis, 211 (7), pp. 1128-1133. Read abstract | Read more

In malaria-endemic areas, Plasmodium falciparum parasitemia is common in apparently healthy children and severe malaria is commonly misdiagnosed in patients with incidental parasitemia. We assessed whether the plasma Plasmodium falciparum DNA concentration is a useful datum for distinguishing uncomplicated from severe malaria in African children and Asian adults. P. falciparum DNA concentrations were measured by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in 224 African children (111 with uncomplicated malaria and 113 with severe malaria) and 211 Asian adults (100 with uncomplicated malaria and 111 with severe malaria) presenting with acute falciparum malaria. The diagnostic accuracy of plasma P. falciparum DNA concentrations in identifying severe malaria was 0.834 for children and 0.788 for adults, similar to that of plasma P. falciparum HRP2 levels and substantially superior to that of parasite densities (P < .0001). The diagnostic accuracy of plasma P. falciparum DNA concentrations plus plasma P. falciparum HRP2 concentrations was significantly greater than that of plasma P. falciparum HRP2 concentrations alone (0.904 for children [P = .004] and 0.847 for adults [P = .003]). Quantitative real-time PCR measurement of parasite DNA in plasma is a useful method for diagnosing severe falciparum malaria on fresh or archived plasma samples. Hide abstract

Ashley EA, Dhorda M, Fairhurst RM, Amaratunga C, Lim P, Suon S, Sreng S, Anderson JM et al. 2014. Spread of artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum malaria. N Engl J Med, 371 (5), pp. 411-423. Read abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum has emerged in Southeast Asia and now poses a threat to the control and elimination of malaria. Mapping the geographic extent of resistance is essential for planning containment and elimination strategies. METHODS: Between May 2011 and April 2013, we enrolled 1241 adults and children with acute, uncomplicated falciparum malaria in an open-label trial at 15 sites in 10 countries (7 in Asia and 3 in Africa). Patients received artesunate, administered orally at a daily dose of either 2 mg per kilogram of body weight per day or 4 mg per kilogram, for 3 days, followed by a standard 3-day course of artemisinin-based combination therapy. Parasite counts in peripheral-blood samples were measured every 6 hours, and the parasite clearance half-lives were determined. RESULTS: The median parasite clearance half-lives ranged from 1.9 hours in the Democratic Republic of Congo to 7.0 hours at the Thailand-Cambodia border. Slowly clearing infections (parasite clearance half-life >5 hours), strongly associated with single point mutations in the "propeller" region of the P. falciparum kelch protein gene on chromosome 13 (kelch13), were detected throughout mainland Southeast Asia from southern Vietnam to central Myanmar. The incidence of pretreatment and post-treatment gametocytemia was higher among patients with slow parasite clearance, suggesting greater potential for transmission. In western Cambodia, where artemisinin-based combination therapies are failing, the 6-day course of antimalarial therapy was associated with a cure rate of 97.7% (95% confidence interval, 90.9 to 99.4) at 42 days. CONCLUSIONS: Artemisinin resistance to P. falciparum, which is now prevalent across mainland Southeast Asia, is associated with mutations in kelch13. Prolonged courses of artemisinin-based combination therapies are currently efficacious in areas where standard 3-day treatments are failing. (Funded by the U.K. Department of International Development and others; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01350856.). Hide abstract

Jamornthanyawat N, Awab GR, Tanomsing N, Pukrittayakamee S, Yamin F, Dondorp AM, Day NP, White NJ, Woodrow CJ, Imwong M. 2014. A population survey of the glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) 563C>T (Mediterranean) mutation in Afghanistan. PLoS One, 9 (2), pp. e88605. Read abstract | Read more

Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency is a common inherited enzyme defect and an important problem in areas with Plasmodium vivax infection because of the risk of haemolysis following administration of primaquine to treat the liver forms of the parasite. We undertook a genotypic survey of 713 male individuals across nine provinces of Afghanistan in which malaria is found, four in the north and five in the east. RFLP typing at nucleotide position 563 detected 40 individuals with the Mediterranean mutation 563C>T, an overall prevalence of 5.6%. This varied according to self-reported ethnicity, with prevalence in the Pashtun/Pashai group of 33/369 (8.9%) compared to 7/344 individuals in the rest of the population (2.0%; p<0.001, Chi-squared test). Multivariate analysis of ethnicity and geographical location indicated an adjusted odds ratio of 3.50 (95% CI 1.36-9.02) for the Pashtun/Pashai group, while location showed only a trend towards higher prevalence in eastern provinces (adjusted odds ratio = 1.73, 0.73-4.13). Testing of known polymorphic markers (1311C>T in exon 11, and C93T in intron XI) in a subset of 82 individuals wild-type at C563 revealed a mixture of 3 haplotypes in the background population and was consistent with data from the 1000 Genomes Project and published studies. By comparison individuals with G6PD deficiency showed a highly skewed haplotype distribution, with 95% showing the CT haplotype, a finding consistent with relatively recent appearance and positive selection of the Mediterranean variant in Afghanistan. Overall, the data confirm that the Mediterranean variant of G6PD is common in many ethnic groups in Afghanistan, indicating that screening for G6PD deficiency is required in all individuals before radical treatment of P. vivax with primaquine. Hide abstract

Woodrow CJ, Dahlström S, Cooksey R, Flegg JA, Le Nagard H, Mentré F, Murillo C, Ménard D et al. 2013. High-throughput analysis of antimalarial susceptibility data by the WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WWARN) in vitro analysis and reporting tool. Antimicrob Agents Chemother, 57 (7), pp. 3121-3130. Read abstract | Read more

Assessment of in vitro susceptibility is a fundamental component of antimalarial surveillance studies, but wide variations in the measurement of parasite growth and the calculation of inhibitory constants make comparisons of data from different laboratories difficult. Here we describe a Web-based, high-throughput in vitro analysis and reporting tool (IVART) generating inhibitory constants for large data sets. Fourteen primary data sets examining laboratory-determined susceptibility to artemisinin derivatives and artemisinin combination therapy partner drugs were collated from 11 laboratories. Drug concentrations associated with half-maximal inhibition of growth (IC50s) were determined by a modified sigmoid Emax model-fitting algorithm, allowing standardized analysis of 7,350 concentration-inhibition assays involving 1,592 isolates. Examination of concentration-inhibition data revealed evidence of apparent paradoxical growth at high concentrations of nonartemisinin drugs, supporting amendment of the method for calculating the maximal drug effect in each assay. Criteria for defining more-reliable IC50s based on estimated confidence intervals and growth ratios improved correlation coefficients for the drug pairs mefloquine-quinine and chloroquine-desethylamodiaquine in 9 of 11 and 8 of 8 data sets, respectively. Further analysis showed that maximal drug inhibition was higher for artemisinins than for other drugs, particularly in ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay)-based assays, a finding consistent with the earlier onset of action of these drugs in the parasite life cycle. This is the first high-throughput analytical approach to apply consistent constraints and reliability criteria to large, diverse antimalarial susceptibility data sets. The data also illustrate the distinct biological properties of artemisinins and underline the need to apply more sensitive approaches to assessing in vitro susceptibility to these drugs. Hide abstract

Hendriksen IC, Mwanga-Amumpaire J, von Seidlein L, Mtove G, White LJ, Olaosebikan R, Lee SJ, Tshefu AK et al. 2012. Diagnosing severe falciparum malaria in parasitaemic African children: a prospective evaluation of plasma PfHRP2 measurement. PLoS Med, 9 (8), pp. e1001297. Read abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: In African children, distinguishing severe falciparum malaria from other severe febrile illnesses with coincidental Plasmodium falciparum parasitaemia is a major challenge. P. falciparum histidine-rich protein 2 (PfHRP2) is released by mature sequestered parasites and can be used to estimate the total parasite burden. We investigated the prognostic significance of plasma PfHRP2 and used it to estimate the malaria-attributable fraction in African children diagnosed with severe malaria. METHODS AND FINDINGS: Admission plasma PfHRP2 was measured prospectively in African children (from Mozambique, The Gambia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo) aged 1 month to 15 years with severe febrile illness and a positive P. falciparum lactate dehydrogenase (pLDH)-based rapid test in a clinical trial comparing parenteral artesunate versus quinine (the AQUAMAT trial, ISRCTN 50258054). In 3,826 severely ill children, Plasmadium falciparum PfHRP2 was higher in patients with coma (p = 0.0209), acidosis (p<0.0001), and severe anaemia (p<0.0001). Admission geometric mean (95%CI) plasma PfHRP2 was 1,611 (1,350-1,922) ng/mL in fatal cases (n = 381) versus 1,046 (991-1,104) ng/mL in survivors (n = 3,445, p<0.0001), without differences in parasitaemia as assessed by microscopy. There was a U-shaped association between log(10) plasma PfHRP2 and risk of death. Mortality increased 20% per log(10) increase in PfHRP2 above 174 ng/mL (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 1.21, 95%CI 1.05-1.39, p = 0.009). A mechanistic model assuming a PfHRP2-independent risk of death in non-malaria illness closely fitted the observed data and showed malaria-attributable mortality less than 50% with plasma PfHRP2≤174 ng/mL. The odds ratio (OR) for death in artesunate versus quinine-treated patients was 0.61 (95%CI 0.44-0.83, p = 0.0018) in the highest PfHRP2 tertile, whereas there was no difference in the lowest tertile (OR 1.05; 95%CI 0.69-1.61; p = 0.82). A limitation of the study is that some conclusions are drawn from a mechanistic model, which is inherently dependent on certain assumptions. However, a sensitivity analysis of the model indicated that the results were robust to a plausible range of parameter estimates. Further studies are needed to validate our findings. CONCLUSIONS: Plasma PfHRP2 has prognostic significance in African children with severe falciparum malaria and provides a tool to stratify the risk of "true" severe malaria-attributable disease as opposed to other severe illnesses in parasitaemic African children. Hide abstract

Gardner KB, Sinha I, Bustamante LY, Day NPJ, White NJ, Woodrow CJ. 2011. Protein-based signatures of functional evolution in Plasmodium falciparum BMC Evolutionary Biology, 11 (1), Read abstract | Read more

Abstract. Background: It has been known for over a decade that Plasmodium falciparum proteins are enriched in non-globular domains of unknown function. The potential for these regions of protein sequence to undergo high levels of genetic drift provides a fundamental challenge to attempts to identify the molecular basis of adaptive change in malaria parasites. Results: Evolutionary comparisons were undertaken using a set of forty P. falciparum metabolic enzyme genes, both within the hominid malaria clade (P. reichenowi) and across the genus (P. chabaudi). All genes contained coding elements highly conserved across the genus, but there were also a large number of regions of weakly or non-aligning coding sequence. These displayed remarkable levels of non-synonymous fixed differences within the hominid malaria clade indicating near complete release from purifying selection (dN/dS ratio at residues non-aligning across genus: 0.64, dN/dS ratio at residues identical across genus: 0.03). Regions of low conservation also possessed high levels of hydrophilicity, a marker of non-globularity. The propensity for such regions to act as potent sources of non-synonymous genetic drift within extant P. falciparum isolates was confirmed at chromosomal regions containing genes known to mediate drug resistance in field isolates, where 150 of 153 amino acid variants were located in poorly conserved regions. In contrast, all 22 amino acid variants associated with drug resistance were restricted to highly conserved regions. Additional mutations associated with laboratory-selected drug resistance, such as those in PfATPase4 selected by spiroindolone, were similarly restricted while mutations in another calcium ATPase (PfSERCA, a gene proposed to mediate artemisinin resistance) that reach significant frequencies in field isolates were located exclusively in poorly conserved regions consistent with genetic drift. Conclusion: Coding sequences of malaria parasites contain prospectively definable domains subject to neutral or nearly neutral evolution on a scale that appears unrivalled in biology. This distinct evolutionary landscape has potential to confound analytical methods developed for other genera. Against this tide of genetic drift, polymorphisms mediating functional change stand out to such an extent that evolutionary context provides a useful signal for identifying the molecular basis of drug resistance in malaria parasites, a finding that is of relevance to both genome-wide and candidate gene studies in this genus. © 2011 Gardner et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. Hide abstract

Woodrow CJ, Bustamante LY. 2011. Mechanisms of artemisinin action and resistance: wider focus is needed. Trends Parasitol, 27 (1), pp. 2-3. | Read more

Dondorp AM, Fanello CI, Hendriksen IC, Gomes E, Seni A, Chhaganlal KD, Bojang K, Olaosebikan R et al. 2010. Artesunate versus quinine in the treatment of severe falciparum malaria in African children (AQUAMAT): An open-label, randomised trial The Lancet, 376 (9753), pp. 1647-1657. Read abstract | Read more

Severe malaria is a major cause of childhood death and often the main reason for paediatric hospital admission in sub-Saharan Africa. Quinine is still the established treatment of choice, although evidence from Asia suggests that artesunate is associated with a lower mortality. We compared parenteral treatment with either artesunate or quinine in African children with severe malaria. This open-label, randomised trial was undertaken in 11 centres in nine African countries. Children (<15 years) with severe falciparum malaria were randomly assigned to parenteral artesunate or parenteral quinine. Randomisation was in blocks of 20, with study numbers corresponding to treatment allocations kept inside opaque sealed paper envelopes. The trial was open label at each site, and none of the investigators or trialists, apart from for the trial statistician, had access to the summaries of treatment allocations. The primary outcome measure was in-hospital mortality, analysed by intention to treat. This trial is registered, number ISRCTN50258054. 5425 children were enrolled; 2712 were assigned to artesunate and 2713 to quinine. All patients were analysed for the primary outcome. 230 (8·5) patients assigned to artesunate treatment died compared with 297 (10·9) assigned to quinine treatment (odds ratio [OR] stratified for study site 0·75, 95 CI 0·63-0·90; relative reduction 22·5, 95 CI 8·1-36·9; p=0·0022). Incidence of neurological sequelae did not differ significantly between groups, but the development of coma (65/1832 [3·5] with artesunate vs 91/1768 [5·1] with quinine; OR 0·69 95 CI 0·49-0·95; p=0·0231), convulsions (224/2712 [8·3] vs 273/2713 [10·1]; OR 0·80, 0·66-0·97; p=0·0199), and deterioration of the coma score (166/2712 [6·1] vs 208/2713 [7·7]; OR 0·78, 0·64-0·97; p=0·0245) were all significantly less frequent in artesunate recipients than in quinine recipients. Post-treatment hypoglycaemia was also less frequent in patients assigned to artesunate than in those assigned to quinine (48/2712 [1·8] vs 75/2713 [2·8]; OR 0·63, 0·43-0·91; p=0·0134). Artesunate was well tolerated, with no serious drug-related adverse effects. Artesunate substantially reduces mortality in African children with severe malaria. These data, together with a meta-analysis of all trials comparing artesunate and quinine, strongly suggest that parenteral artesunate should replace quinine as the treatment of choice for severe falciparum malaria worldwide. The Wellcome Trust. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. Hide abstract

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