Image: Professor Leanne Robinson (left), courtesy Mayeta Clarke
The PNG National Department of Health, PNG Institute of Medical Research and Burnet Institute are conducting a new program in Papua New Guinea to determine the operational feasibility and cost-effectiveness of improved case management for Plasmodium vivax (P. vivax), the most prevalent form of recurring malaria and a risk to an estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide.
The work is part of a new Partnership for Vivax Elimination (PAVE), working with Menzies School of Health Research, MMV and PATH to advance the development of treatments for relapse prevention and support malaria-endemic countries in developing and implementing new strategies to eliminate P. vivax malaria.
“The implementation of optimised Plasmodium vivax case management is critically important to reduce the chronic burden of P. vivax in Papua New Guinea and accelerate towards regional malaria elimination targets,” Professor Leanne Robinson, Burnet Program Director Health Security and Head of Vector-borne Diseases and Tropical Public Health, said.
“PAVE represents an important opportunity for the PNG National Malaria Control Program, researchers, health workers and communities to work together to prioritise the generation of evidence required to change policy and guide the implementation and scale-up of an optimised radical cure strategy tailored to the PNG health system and community needs.”
PNG National Malaria Control Program (NMCP) Manager, Leo Makita, said the PAVE collaboration is an important step towards P. vivax elimination.
“There is a very high burden of vivax infections in Papua New Guinea, and we are looking for every opportunity to collaborate with researchers to find effective strategies that will inform our policies and improve the implementation of radical cure for vivax,” Mr Makita said.
“NMCP is committed to working with PAVE – Partnership for Vivax Elimination.”
Image: (R-L) Dr Moses Laman, Deputy Director of the PNG Institute of Medical Research and Head of the Vector Borne Diseases Unit, Dr Mary Malai (PNGIMR) and Dr Maria Ome-Kaius (PNGIMR)
Principal Investigator Dr Moses Laman, the Deputy Director of the PNG Institute of Medical Research and Head of the Vector-borne Diseases Unit, said he believes vivax malaria can be eliminated successfully through strong global partnerships such as PAVE.
“Vivax malaria remains a significant challenge in PNG, and the PAVE initiative provides a great opportunity for us to understand and address this challenge,” Dr Laman said.
In addition to the planned work in PNG, PAVE is facilitating similar collaborative studies in other P. vivax endemic countries including Brazil, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Peru and Thailand.
PAVE is led by Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) and PATH supported by USD$ 25 million in new funding from Unitaid with existing support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, and MMV core funding.
P. vivax accounts for between 6 and 7 million clinical cases globally every year and presents a major challenge to eliminate because it can survive in a person’s liver even after successful blood-stage treatment, leading to malaria relapses and contributing to transmission.
Tackling P. vivax by treating both the blood- and liver-stage of the infection – known as the radical cure – is essential to achieve the World Health Organization 2030 targets of reducing the incidence of malaria globally by at least 90 percent, and eliminating malaria transmission in 35 countries.
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