Dr. Wendy O’Meara is an Associate Professor at Duke University School of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases, visiting professor at Moi University, and the Associate Director for Research of the Duke Global Health Institute. She has been based full-time in Kenya since 2007.
Dr. O’Meara’s team is interested in improving rational drug use for suspected malaria fevers through expanding the use of diagnostic tools in the community and in health facilities. As many as 90% of fevers that seek treatment in the formal sector receive antimalarials, and it is estimated that only 20% of those buying antimalarials over-the-counter in the retail sector actually have malaria. Such overuse poses a significant threat to the continued efficacy of first-line antimalarials. Dr. O’Meara has conducted several randomized controlled trials in western Kenya to test interventions designed to improve the use of information from malaria diagnostic testing in order to target antimalarials to those with confirmed infection. In 2005, she helped to establish the Malaria Diagnostic Centre of Excellence in Kisumu, Kenya.
Dr. O’Meara is also working towards elucidating malaria transmission networks by identifying individual human-to-mosquito and mosquito-human transmission events through leveraging variability in key parasite genes (collaboration with Steve Taylor’s lab). By tracking generations of infections from humans to mosquitoes, a clearer understanding of the reservoir of infection will be possible and interventions such as ivermectin and transmission blocking vaccines can be targeted to maximizes their effectiveness.
Dr. O’Meara also has experience in marrying innovative spatial techniques with epidemiologic outcomes. Recent work includes an analysis of health systems factors that contribute to early childhood mortality in sub-Saharan Africa and the impact of malaria prevention on birth outcomes.