A $2 million grant to advance research into the prevention, detection and treatment of multidrug-resistant malaria and tuberculosis (TB) in Southeast Asia and the Pacific has been awarded to a consortium led by Menzies School of Health Research in collaboration with Burnet Institute, and partners in Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Burnet’s Professor Steve Graham and Professor Mike Toole AM are among the Chief Investigators for the consortium which will work with partners in Indonesia, PNG and Malaysia to strengthen local health systems and build local capacity. Burnet infectious diseases specialists Dr Jack Richards and Dr Suman Majumdar are among the project’s Associate Investigators.
Drug-resistant TB and malaria are life-threatening diseases and pose a threat to health security in our region. More than half of all global TB cases occur in our region and it kills more people in PNG than any other infectious disease.
The World Health Organization has set an ambitious target for TB elimination by 2035, but drug-resistant TB is a threat to achieving this. Research and innovation applied at the country level is critical to break
the trajectory of the epidemic and reach the global targets.
Professor Graham said the research would progress and assess innovative strategies to address drug-resistant TB, including in neighboring countries PNG and Indonesia.
Since 2014, Burnet has been working with a range of partners in Western Province PNG, one of the ‘hot spots’ for the spread of drug-resistant TB through the RID-TB project. This initiative will build on existing DFAT investments to address the outbreak of drug-resistant TB according to Dr Suman Majumdar, the technical director of RID-TB.
Professor Graham said the aim would be to build the capacity of PNG health workers and institutions to conduct operational research on TB. This will strengthen the national response to detect, treat and prevent new TB cases.
“Effective and innovative strategies to test and treat TB are needed, and their impact evaluated,” Professor Graham said.
Menzies malaria expert, Professor Ric Price said malaria is a major cause of death in Southeast Asia, infecting around 500 million people each year.
“The most worrying reports of drug-resistant malaria are in the SoutheastAsia, particularly in Cambodia where malaria is almost untreatable in some areas,” Professor Price said.
“Our research will track drug-resistant malaria within countries and across borders so that treatment can stay one step ahead of the spread of resistance, using new technologies to test, treat and monitor populations at greatest risk.”
The grant will be funded under Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Tropical Disease Research Regional Collaboration Initiative with an objective to build and strengthen research collaboration on tropical diseases, which pose a trans-boundary threat in Australia’s region.