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The long and winding road for methods in tropical medicine and parasitic research

The development of technological applications in biomedical research is a fast paced field, whose rate of achievements can now be measured in weeks instead of the many years and decades necessary in the mid XX century for a novel application to be proudly announced by their discoverers. Technological innovation is so overwhelming today that one is always prone to ask where and when we will find the correct use of that technology and, most importantly, whether should we move to the new method and invest our precious time and grant money on the acquisition, training of personnel and validation through costly scientific initiatives. That is a big question for research fund managers, science policy makers and principal investigators, but the real point is that at every method improvement (either by incremental or breakthrough innovation) the horizons of science expand hugely and sometimes at an exponentially rate. Two interesting examples of exponential impact on science advancement were the DNA sequencing by dideoxy terminators (Sanger et al. 1977) and the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) (Saiki et al. 1985). In addition to help their developers winning a Nobel Prize, these methods opened a whole new universe of scientific achievements in biological and biomedical research and have also boosted a billionaire chain of developments in the scientific instrument and biotech industries. A recent breakthrough in biomedical research is the CRISP/Cas-9 method for genome editing (Jinek et al. 2012), which has an enormous potential to change the face of biology as did the two technologies above mentioned.
Meanwhile, incremental changes in current techniques reveal the B-side of this flip-flop game. In some knowledge fields, the answers may come by simply reviewing the power of the methods that are long standing on the laboratory shelf. Due to peculiarities like belonging to small research community, scarce funding opportunities or being non-relevant to mainstream innovators, advancement in these fields is a step by step procedure and is clearly dependent upon boldness and ingenuity of researchers.
Eight papers in December 2014 issue [109(8)] of Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz portray a picture of the technical repertoire incremented under these assumptions: (i) diagnosis of Chagas disease under scarce resources environment (Mendicino et al. 2014), (ii) Mycobacterium tuberculosis peptide sequences predicted to bind to multiple human leukocyte antigen (da Silva et al. 2014); (iii) temporal abundance of Aedes aegypti measured by two trap types for adult mosquitoes (Degener et al. 2014); (iv) expression plasmids designed to express trypanosomal proteins fused to a double tag for tandem affinity purification (Alonso et al. 2014); (v) detection of Wuchereria bancrofti DNA in paired serum and urine samples using PCR-based systems (Ximenes et al. 2014); (vi) using the Iberian wolf as a sentinel for environmental contamination with pathogenic leptospires (Millan et al. 2014); (vii) a novel flow cytometry assay to evaluate the susceptibility of Giardia duodenalis trophozoites to metronidazole (Barbosa et al. 2014) and (viii) the effectiveness of Mosquito Magnet® Independence in comparison with those of the CDC trap with CO2 and Lurex3® and the CDC light trap (Sant’Ana et al. 2014).
Through these papers we have a perspective of the long and winding technical road for tropical medicine and parasitic research, in some way resembling what pop music composer Paul McCartney wrote in his 1969 song: "The long and winding road/ That leads to your door/Will never disappear/ I've seen that road before/ It always leads me here/ Leads me to your door".

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