3 Aug 2018 Passion in Parasitology Led IMU’s MSc Candidate to Local and International Conferences Awards

Wong Yi Hao’s passion in parasitology has served as an impetus for him to continue pursuing his Master of Science (MSc) in Medical and Health Sciences (by Research) at the International Medical University (IMU) after completing his Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences at Nanyang Technology University (NTU), Singapore. His hard work in this finally paid off when he bagged:

Prize Event Date and Venue
Best Oral Presentation 20th International Conference on Medical Bacteriology, Mycology and Parasitology 5 to 6 July 2018, Holiday Inn Atrium, Singapore
First Prize in the Poster Presentation Competition Malaysian Society of Parasitology and Tropical Medicine (MSPTM) Mid-Year Seminar in honour of Prof Mak Joon Wah on Relevance and Importance of Tropical Medicine 7 July 2018, IMU Campus in Bukit Jalil

The International Conference on Medical Bacteriology, Mycology and Parasitology aimed to bring together leading academic scientists, and researchers to exchange and share their experiences and research results as well as to discuss the most recent innovations, trends, and concerns, practical challenges encountered and the solutions adopted in the fields of Medical Bacteriology, Mycology and Parasitology.

In this conference, Yi Hao received the best oral presentation award for his paper titled ‘Transcriptomic analysis of Acanthamoeba castellanii Virulence Alteration by Epigenetic DNA Methylation’. DNA-methylation is an enzyme-mediated process which adds methyl groups to DNA used by eukaryotic cells to control their gene expression. The process has also been implicated in the development and pathogenicity regulation of a number of human parasites. The highlights of Yi Hao’s findings in the said presentation was the successful identification of a list of genes which may be regulated by DNA-methylation, in which some of the analysed genes were deduced to be possibly associated with Acanthamoeba pathogenicity, which is a single-celled living microorganism. The study has provided fundamental understanding on the regulation of Acanthamoeba virulence potential and their pathogenesis, and depicting potential candidates for anti-acanthamoebal agents.

The Malaysian Society of Parasitology and Tropical Medicine (MSPTM) Mid-Year Seminar is an annual meeting of the members of MSPTM. This year, the event was held in the IMU, in honour of Prof Mak Joon Wah, the former Vice-President of Research and the Director of IRDI, IMU. The seminar was organised in recognition of Professor Mak’s immense contributions to tropical medicine and public health with the theme of Relevance and Importance of Tropical Medicine.

More on the Malaysian Society of Parasitology and Tropical Medicine (MSPTM) Mid-Year Seminar: Insightful and Eye-opening Mid-Year Seminar in honour of Prof Mak Joon Wah.

In the seminar, Yi Hao presented a poster titled ‘Effect of Mouse Passages on the Virulence of Axenically Cultivated Acanthamoeba castellanii: A Genome-wide Transcriptomic Analysis’. Pathogenic Acanthamoeba are notoriously known to cause human brain and eye infections. A harmful Acanthamoeba strain can lose its infection ability by prolonged culturing in liquid medium, conversely, the non-harmful strain can become dangerous if they are repeatedly injected and isolated from laboratory mice. Yi Hao’s poster presentation was on the comparison of the total RNA expression between a long-term cultured, non-harmful Acanthamoeba strain and a harmful Acanthamoeba strain which has been subjected to multiple rounds of mouse infection-isolation. Through the study, important candidate genes which may be associated with Acanthamoena virulence have been identified.

Wong Yi Hao has been working on these two papers as part of his MSc project under the supervision and guidance of:

Dr Chan Li Li Lecturer from the School of Medicine
Prof Leong Chee Onn Deputy Director of IRDI
Prof Stephen Ambu Head of Center for Environmental and Population Health, IRDI
Prof Mak Joon Wah Emeritus Professor of IMU
Dr Priyadarshi Sahu Lecturer from the School of Medicine, IMU

The main objective of the project is to uncover the molecular mechanisms of virulence regulation in Acanthamoeba species so as to control the spread of infections by this parasite.

Wong Yi Hao remarked that his journey in his MSc studies has not been easy. He recalled encountering countless obstacles and difficulties. Nonetheless, it has been his enthusiasm in parasitology that keeps him going. He is in the hope that he could make a breakthrough in this field by discovering the molecular pathways of Acanthamoeba diseases which can contribute to the invention of new treatments. With fingers crossed, Wong Yi Hao wishes to continue pursuing his passion in parasitology by furthering in PhD studies upon completion of his MSc.

Well done to Wong Yi Hao for his hard work and congratulations on winning the prizes!

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