Image: Professor James Beeson, Burnet Institute Head of Malaria Research
On World Malaria Day 2018, Burnet Institute’s Head of Malaria Research, Professor James Beeson is optimistic about the prospects of achieving malaria elimination.
“Building on tremendous gains over the past decade, exciting strategies are being developed to prevent malaria and reduce the burden of disease,” Professor Beeson said.
“There are exciting results around the development of effective vaccines and how that might accelerate the elimination of malaria in the future through partnerships across our region.
“Globally, governments and organisations have signed up to the malaria elimination agenda and set ambitious targets, and are committing resources to achieve those targets.
“But it’s still going to require an ongoing investment of researchers and public health personnel, clinicians and policy-makers working together with that mission of achieving malaria elimination in as many countries as possible, and one day hopefully seeing the eradication of malaria.”
Professor Beeson said it would be important to closely monitor signs that global progress towards reducing the burden of malaria is slowing, and may even have stalled.
“We don’t know all the reasons, but they include the emergence and spread of drug resistance, which is affecting our ability to treat malaria effectively,” he said.
“There’s changes in the behaviours of mosquitoes which is affecting preventive measures such as bed nets, some of the tests that we use to detect malaria are not as sensitive as we would like, and there are other factors such as population movements.”
“A strength of the malaria program at Burnet is that we have a multi-faceted approach, and a multi-disciplinary approach,” Professor Beeson said.
“We have our groups in the laboratory in discovery-based research, for example, looking at new compounds that could be developed for effective drugs, or understanding how we might develop effective vaccines.
“Then we have researchers who work in the translation of discoveries into clinical practice or public health policy, or who take challenges in clinical care and bring it back to the research groups.
“And we have activities around public health implementation, capacity building, and working very closely in partnership with researchers, organisations and governments in malaria-endemic countries in the Asia-Pacific region, in particular Papua New Guinea and Myanmar.”
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