Every two minutes a child dies from malaria. Imagine the devastating impact this has on families and their communities.

Malaria is an acute febrile illness caused by different species: Plasmodium falciparum, P. vivax, P. ovale, P. malariae and P. knowlesi. Falciparum causes the majority of malaria disease globally but P. vivax is a second important cause of malaria and causes a high burden of disease in the Asia-Pacific region.

A parasite called Plasmodium, which is transmitted via the bites of infected mosquitoes causes malaria. In the human body, the parasites multiply in the liver, then infect red blood cells, and if not promptly treated, may lead to death.

Despite a major reduction globally in malaria-related mortality rates through prevention and treatment efforts, more than 400,000 people – mainly young children – are still dying each year from this preventable disease. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) more than 90 countries are impacted by malaria, many in the Asia-Pacific region. Australia’s and the global response towards eliminating malaria requires a dual approach of preventing infections and stopping malaria-related deaths.

Burnet Institute's malaria research

Burnet Institute is committed to making a major contribution in efforts to eliminate malaria as a public health threat, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. We work with partners in Australia and internationally, especially in malaria-endemic regions in the Pacific, Southeast Asia and East Africa (including Papua New Guinea, Myanmar, Vietnam, Lao PDR, Kenya, and Cambodia). We also collaborate with industry partners in development of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics.

Burnet’s latest discoveries and innovative approaches

  • Discovering new insights into how drug resistance may emerge in populations and how to better quantify and monitor its spread.
  • Identified new antimalarial compounds with potential for development into drugs.
  • Identified immune responses that protect against malaria and new approaches for vaccine development.
  • Developing new low-cost diagnostic tests to guide the treatment of malaria.
  • Developing novel tools to enhance surveillance and tracking of malaria in populations.
  • In affected communities created strategies to address gaps in health services and coverage to improve diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.

Drug resistance

According to the WHO, antimalarial drug resistance is a major concern for the global effort to control malaria. P. falciparum resistance to artemisinins has been detected in four countries in Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. There is an urgent need to expand containment efforts in affected countries.

For now, ACTs remain highly effective in almost all settings, so long as the partner drug in the combination is locally effective.

Burnet’s Eliminate Malaria program:

Burnet's Eliminate Malaria program

Burnet’s Key Strategies:

The landmark 1st Malaria World Congress 2018 (MWC2018) raised awareness internationally about the huge global challenges to eliminate this devastating disease. Find out more. Burnet’s malaria researchers and Congress Founder, Professor Brendan Crabb AC played a key role.

Anopheles mosquito which spreads malaria

Current Projects

  • Antibody engineering to study responses mediating protective immunity

  • APPRISE - Centre for Research Excellence

  • Broadly neutralising anti-HIV antibodies and Fc Receptor function

  • Clinical studies on malaria

  • Decision science using Optima

  • Developing new antimalarial drugs that block protein trafficking

  • Developing vaccines against malaria

  • Discovering the mechanisms and targets of immunity against malaria

  • Evaluating a highly sensitive rapid malaria diagnostic in PNG

  • Evaluation of Malaria Case-Based Reporting using a mobile phone application in Myanmar

  • Evidence and action for malaria elimination in Myanmar

  • Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies

  • HMHB - Health Services for Postnatal and Infancy Care

  • HMHB: The impact of nutrition, malaria and STIs on pregnant women and infants

  • Host and parasite factors that predict Artemisinin Resistance reservoirs

  • Host red blood cell modification sustains the virulence of malaria parasites

  • IgG subclasses and immunity to malaria

  • Immunity to malaria and infectious diseases during pregnancy

  • Immunity, drug efficacy and spread of antimalarial drug resistance

  • Impact of declining transmission on immunity and risk of malaria rebound

  • Iron deficiency anaemia and adverse birth outcomes in a malaria-endemic region of Papua New Guinea

  • Major advances in understanding malaria immunity and biology

  • Malaria Vaccine Delivery Platforms

  • Mechanism of antimalarial drug action

  • New treatments for malaria

  • Optimal community-delivered malaria elimination models for the Greater Mekong Sub-region

  • Paralysing malaria parasites

  • Serological surveillance to identify mosquito exposure and malaria transmission

  • STRIVE PNG: strengthening surveillance and response for vector-borne pathogens in PNG.

  • Vaccines against Plasmodium vivax and P. falciparum malaria