Malaria research and training benefits global community

April 24, 2001

NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH, BETHESDA, MD - Malaria kills 2.7 million people each year, according to the most recent estimates, and is responsible for enormous economic burdens in malaria-endemic regions. Ninety percent of those who die of malaria are African children under the age of 5. Over 1.5 billion new infections occur annually. Unfortunately, these numbers are on the rise due to insecticide resistance, antimalarial drug resistance, and environmental changes. Unless new strategies are developed, death and illness due to malaria will increase, and the disease will continue to be a substantial barrier to the economic and social development of malaria-endemic regions and a threat to the millions of people who travel to those regions each year.

In 1997, an international alliance of research and public health agencies and African scientists launched the Multilateral Initiative on Malaria (MIM). MIM is stimulating collaborative research to answer the needs of public health programs in malaria-endemic countries, modernizing communication systems used by the African research community, and strengthening research capacity and human resources where malaria takes its greatest toll - sub-Saharan Africa. MIM supports 23 collaborative malaria research projects between African laboratories that are also in partnership with laboratories in Europe and the United States. Detailed information about MIM, its partners, and activities is available on the MIM website at http://mim.nih.gov.

April 25, 2001 is the first-ever Africa Malaria Day. Today, MIM is announcing two international conferences on malaria. MIM will hold the Third MIM Pan-African Conference on Malaria from November 18 to 22, 2002, in Arusha, Tanzania. This conference will bring together malaria researchers who battle Plasmodium falciparum malaria, which causes the most severe illness and which is the dominant form of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, MIM is organizing a conference to focus on a second form of malaria, Plasmodium vivax, in January 2002 in Bangkok, Thailand, together with partners in Asia. Plasmodium vivax malaria significantly contributes to malaria morbidity in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Both conferences will bring together malaria researchers and malaria control experts with the aim of transferring malaria research advances into critically needed control, prevention, and treatment programs. MIM selected Africa Malaria Day to announce these two international conferences to draw attention to the fact that malaria research and capacity building in malaria-endemic regions are essential, integrally linked components in an effective approach to addressing malaria.

"It is essential that those most impacted by malaria participate in finding research solutions," said Gerald T. Keusch, M.D., Director of FIC and of the MIM Secretariat, and NIH Associate Director for International Research. "Support for research conducted in malaria-endemic regions by local researchers will have critical, lasting impacts locally and globally."

Keusch added, "Given the profound toll that malaria takes on societies, African leaders have been at the forefront of MIM in addressing this issue." The lead organizers of the Third MIM Pan-African Conference on Malaria are the National Institute for Malaria Research in Tanzania, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), and MIM.

The Second MIM Pan-African Conference on Malaria was held in March 1999 in Durban, South Africa, and included over 850 delegates. The proceedings of that conference are available on the MIM website at http://mim.nih.gov/english/achievements/conference.html#durban_report.

FIC is the international component of NIH and currently serves as MIM Secretariat. NIH, primarily through the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), supports malaria research to address critical needs related to vaccine development, vector biology and control, health economics, health information systems, and other research areas, while FIC promotes capacity building through its malaria research training programs for scientists from malaria-endemic countries. In addition to the two international scientific conferences announced today, other activities of the MIM Secretariat at NIH include:

Research Training Grants: To expand the capabilities of malaria researchers, FIC developed the International Malaria Research and Training Program (IMTRP). The scarcity of trained malaria researchers in the regions most severely impacted by the disease is a major impediment to successful malaria research. In 2000, the IMRTP began supporting collaborative training programs between U.S. institutions and malaria researchers in endemic countries. More information about the IMRTP is available on the FIC website at http://www.nih.gov/fic/programs/malaria.html.

Training Workshops: MIM sponsors workshops about the grant application and peer-review process to train researchers from malaria-endemic regions to successfully apply for research grants. The current issue of the journal "Trends in Parasitology" (Vol. 17, No. 4, April 2001) includes a report on a recent MIM training workshop.

Addressing malarial anemia: To foster research on the interaction between malaria and anemia, MIM; NIAID; FIC; and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) organized meetings of hematologists, nutritionists, and malaria researchers to discuss these interactions. Subsequently, NIAID and FIC developed a joint research and training program to support research in malaria-endemic countries on the pathogenesis of severe malarial anemia. More information about this program, which is currently accepting applications, is available on the FIC website at http://www.nih.gov/fic/programs/malaria.html.

Information about NIAID malaria research activities is available at http://www.niaid.nih.gov/dmid/malaria.
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FIC is the international component of the NIH. FIC promotes and supports scientific research internationally to reduce disparities in global health. NIH is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Fact sheets, press releases, and other FIC-related materials are available at http://www.nih.gov/fic.

NIH/Fogarty International Center

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