Dr Qin Cheng studied medicine (BMed),then completed Masters (MMed) and a PhD in 1993. Between 1989 and 1998 Dr Cheng conducted biomedical research on malaria parasites and vaccines at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR). Since 1998 Dr Cheng has been Head of the Drug Resistance and Diagnostics Department at the Australian Defence Force Malaria and Infectious Disease Institute (formerly Australian Army Malaria Institute AMI) . She has also been a visiting scientist at QIMR since 1998 and was Head of Malaria Drug Resistance and Chemotherapy Laboratory at QIMR between 2000 and 2010. Dr Cheng had a joint appointment as Associate Professor at the Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Queensland between 2004 and 2015.
Dr Cheng’s research focuses on investigating biological and molecular changes that make parasites difficult to detect and more resistant to anti-malarial drugs. Her laboratory identified parasites that had deleted genes resulting in them being undetectable by commonly used rapid diagnostic tests in South America and Africa causing false-negative results and delaying treatment. Her laboratory also investigates mechanisms and evolution of drug resistance in malaria parasites. Over the past 18 years, her lab has made significant contributions to elucidating mechanisms of chloroquine, atovaqone, pyrimethamine and sulfadoxine resistance in malaria parasites. In recent years, the laboratory investigated artemisinin-induced dormancy and its role in artemisnin resistance. The laboratory has also conducted operational orientated research, such as causes of false negative rapid diagnostic test results and molecular epidemiology of parasites, playing an important role in the WHO-FIND Malaria Rapid Diagnostic Tests Evaluation Program, the WHO Pacific Malaria Drug Resistance Monitoring Network, the Pacific Malaria Initiative and the Asia-Pacific Malaria Elimination Network.
Current QIMR Berghofer appointment
Group Leader, Army Malaria Institute Laboratory
Other current appointments
- Executive level 2, Head, Drug Resistance and Diagnostics, Australian Defence Force Malaria and Infectious Disease Institute (ADFMIDI, formerly Australian Army Malaria Institute).
- 2013-2016: Visiting Scientist, Clinical Tropical Medicine, Queensland Institute of Medical Research.
- 2004-2015: Adjunct Associate Professor, Faculty of Health sciences, The University of Queensland.
- 2010-2012: Visiting Scientist, Deputy Head, Malaria Drug Resistance and Chemotherapy Laboratory, Queensland Institute of Medical Research.
- 2004-2010: Visiting Scientist, Head, Malaria Drug Resistance and Chemotherapy Laboratory, Queensland Institute of Medical Research.
- 1998-2010: Executive level 1, Head, Department of Drug Resistance and Diagnostics, Australian Army Malaria Institute, Australia.
- 2002-2004: Adjunct Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Queensland.
- 1993-1998: Research Officer and Senior Research Officer, Malaria and Arbovirus Unit, Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Australia.
- 1989-1991: Research Officer, Malaria Biology group, The Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Australia.
- 1988-1989: Research Associate, Department of Parasitology, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences; Lecturer, Faculty of Basic Medicine, Peking Union Medical University, Beijing, China.
- 1985-1987: Research and Teaching Assistant, Department of Parasitology, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Beijing, China.
Current Area of Research
- Malaria diagnosis and diagnostics.
- Mechanisms and evolution of drug resistance in malaria.
- Parasite biology relating dormancy and relapses.
- Molecular epidemiology of malaria.
- Professor James McCarthy
- US DoD-GEIS (Waters &Cheng), 1/10/2016- 30/9/2018, , US$270,000, Surveillance of Plasmodium falciparum parasites undetectable by histidine-rich protein 2-detecting malaria rapid diagnostic tests.
- Technical Service Agreement (McCarthy and Cheng), 06/2015- 09/2017, Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, AUS$174,104, To determine parasite HRP2/3 diversity for asymptomatic specimen bank.
- APP1049207 (Gatton and Cheng) 01/01/2013 – 31/12/2016, National Health & Medical Research Council, AUS$368,266, Containment potential and risk and spread of artemisinin resistant Plasmodium falciparum.
- APP1021273 (Cheng, Waters, Chen, Chavchich & Gatton)1/1/2012 – 31/12/2015 National Health & Medical Research Council, Australia, AUS$478,675, The control and regulatory mechanisms of artemisinin induced dormancy in falciparum.
- P0004_13_AM (Waters &Cheng) 1/10/2013- 9/30/2016, US DoD-GEIS, US$399,000, Surveillance of malaria drug resistance in Vanuatu and Solomon Islands of the South Pacific region.
- Professor James McCarthy and Dr Cielo Pasay, Clinical Tropical Medicine Laboratory, Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Brisbane, Australia.
- Dr Michelle Gatton, School of Public Health and Social Work, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia.
- Dr Ric Price, Dr Nick Anstey, Dr Sarah Auburn, Dr Jutta Marfurt, Tropical Medicine and International Health Unit, Menzies School of Health Research, Darwin, Australia.
- Dr Jane Cunningham, Global Malaria Program, Geneva, Switzerland.
- Dr Iveth Gonzalez, Dr Xavier Ding, Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, Geneva, Switzerland.
- Dr Norm Waters, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Washington, USA.
- Professor Dennis Kyle and Prof John Adams, University of South Florida, Tampa, USA.
- Drs Venkatachalam Udhayakumar and Eric Rogier, Malaria Branch, Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria, Center for Global Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, USA.
- Dr Dionicia Gamboa, Departamento de Ciencias Celulares y Moleculares, Facultad de Ciencias y Filosofia, Universidad Peruana de Cayetano Heredia, Peru.
- Drs Araia Berhane and Selam Mihreteab, Ministry of Health, Eritrea.
- Albino Bobogare, Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, Ministry of Health Solomon Islands.
- George Taleo Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, Ministry of Health, Vanuatu.
- The WHO-FIND Malaria RDT Evaluation program participating institutions.
- The WHO Pacific Malaria Drug Resistance Monitoring Network.
- The Pacific Malaria Initiative and the Asia-Pacific Malaria Elimination Network Vivax Working Group (APMEN-VWG).
- Australia-PNG-China Trilateral malaria control program partners.
Improving malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs)
Dr Cheng’s team investigated possible causes for variation in malaria RDT performance including parasites lacking HRP2 and helped WHO-FIND to evaluate commercially available malaria RDTs. The outcomes helped to improve malaria RDTs and to ensure quality RDTs are used in all endemic countries. The discovery of parasites lacking HRP2 in Peru led the WHO to recommend alternative diagnostic tools for the affected areas in South America, and led to the targeted surveillance of parasites lacking HRP2. Dr Cheng led the publication of recommendation for accurate reporting parasites lacking HRP2. Recently, Dr Cheng’s team reported a high proportion of HRP2 deleted parasites causing a high rate of false-negative results on HRP2-based RDTs in Eritrea, leading to a change of diagnostic tests in Eritrea.
A better understanding of drug resistance mechanisms
Dr Cheng investigated mechanisms of resistance to chloroquine, atovaquone, antifolate, sulfa drugs and artemisinin derivatives in P. falciparum; mechanisms of resistance to chloroquine, antifolate and sulfa drugs in P. vivax; and the evolution of chloroquine and Fansidar resistance in Asia-Pacific regions. The outcomes helped to develop and validate drug resistance markers for monitoring drug resistance.
A better understanding of P. vivax relapses mechanism
Dr Cheng’s team investigated relapsing P. vivax in Australian soldiers and demonstrated that P. vivaxrelapses result from clonal hypnozoites activated at predetermined intervals. A biological clock theory of hyponozoite activation was proposed. The paper was published with an editorial commentary.
Artemisinin induced dormancy
Dr Cheng’s team demonstrated that parasites undergo dormancy after exposure to artemisinin drugs. This phenomenon likely evolved to escape damaging environmental factors including antimalarial drugs. Our investigations showed that several kinases and pathways in apicoplast and mitochondrion are active in dormant parasites and that inhibiting these enzymes and pathways can completely or partially prevent the recovery of dormant parasites preventing recrudescence. New drug development now includes a dormancy test.
Molecular epidemiology of malaria in the Pacific region
Dr Cheng’s team reported substantial proportions of sub-microscopic P. falciparum and P. vivax infections, and contrasting genetic structure of the two species in low transmission settings of the region. The outcome reveals that asymptomatic and low density malaria infections are a major infection reservoir in these settings and strategies are required to eliminate this reservoir.
- 2011 – 2016: The Pacific Malaria Drug Resistance Monitoring Network.
- 2010 – 2016: OzEmalaR, Austalia/Europe Malaria Research Collaborative.
- 2010 – present: Asia Pacific Malaria elimination Network vivax Working Group.
- 2003 – 2010: ARC/NHMRC Research Network for Parasitology.
- 1997 – 2002: American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
- 2007: Suncorp 2007 Queenslander of the year Finalist.
- 1996: The AMRAD Pharmacia Biotech Boreham Achievement Award.
- 1995: Achievement Award in Science and Technology, The third category, Guizhou, China.
- 1986 – 1987: WHO TDR Research Training fellowship.
- 1993: PhD, Tropical Health, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.
- 1985: Master of Medicine, Peking Union Medical University, Beijing, China.
- 1983: Bachelor of Medicine, Beijing Medical College, Beijing, China.