Professor Brendan Crabb
The Burnet Institute is calling for increased government support for long-term in-country research programs and partnerships with Australian research organisations to address the threat of malaria drug resistance in the Asia and Pacific region.
Director and CEO, Professor Brendan Crabb, who is an internationally renowned malaria researcher, said that failure to act quickly to address this important health issue could cause a global surge in malaria cases and deaths.
“The first line of defence against Plasmodium falciparum, as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), is Artemisinin Combination Therapy (ACT) with more than 70 per cent of clinical cases globally relying on ACT to treat this devastating disease,” Professor Crabb said.
“These emerging drug resistant strains have the potential to spread, creating a catastrophic, global threat for malaria treatment as there is nothing to replace ACT. Make no mistake, the potential for great human suffering is very real if artemisinin resistance gets hold.”
Professor Crabb welcomed Prime Minister Gillard’s public commitment to malaria and to the region in an address to the UN General Assembly last month to focus on addressing malaria in the Asia and Pacific region.
“What is needed is long-term investment by the Australian Government to support in-country research partnerships in the region focussed on developing new interventions and effective strategies in the fight against malaria,” Professor Crabb said.
“The most effective and lowest cost interventions are those linking development assistance programs with high quality research.
“Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste, the Solomon Islands and Myanmar carry the largest burden of malaria yet have little capacity to control and ultimately eliminate the disease and so need our help.
“Burnet is deeply committed to assisting our neighbours but the need is now urgent to support new in-country research and capacity-building through regional partnerships. This will enable us to address the rise of drug-resistance and advance progress towards effective and sustained malaria control and, ultimately, elimination.”
Burnet will join regional governments, international business representatives and non-government organisations at this week’s Malaria 2012: Saving Lives in the Asia Pacific conference in Sydney hosted by the Australian Government through AusAID.