Rotarians Against Malaria Conference Report
Part 3 – Presentations by Researchers on the fight against Malaria.
Professor Denis Shanks, Australian Army Malaria Institute:
Prof. Shanks once again delivered an entertaining and informative dinner speech comparing the global effort to eliminate malaria to the 13th century Hundred Years war between England and France and the current experience of extended time frames to finally eliminate polio. Prof Shanks concluded that malaria elimination is “possible but difficult” and that although a goal of 2030 has been set for elimination there are already weaknesses in national resolve showing up. He demonstrated some significant successes including Chinese elimination programs moving ahead of schedule and several countries (e.g. Argentina) recently being declared malaria free. Prof Shanks called on RAM to continue to promote awareness of and interest in elimination programs in both Australia and our target countries, to contribute to assisting logistics support in Melanesian communities and to promote self-help through purchase of LLINs whilst other elimination tools are developed.
Dr Danielle Stanisic, Institute of Glycomics, Griffith University:
Dr Stanisic presented an update of progress towards producing a chemically attenuated whole parasite vaccine based on Plasmodium falciparum. She described a four stage development program involving human trials where, in the current third stage, the safety, tolerability and immunogenicity in naï�½¯ve humans is being evaluated. When this is successfully completed the final development stage will examine the protective efficacy of the vaccine in humans.ï�½ The next stages will test the vaccine survival when frozen and then move on to more thorough tests of the vaccine induced immunity to malaria in humans. Interestingly she reported that initial results in mice and human blood trials suggest that the vaccine, although based on falciparum, will induce immunity to other plasmodium species as well.
Professor Tom Burkot, Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine at JCU:
Prof. Burkot reviewed the global experience in malaria control and the factors that are shaping planning for global malaria elimination. He noted that great progress had been made in rolling out LLINs in Africa in the last ten years with Global Fund spending on malaria reaching US$ 8.5 billion. Prof Burkot referred to the WHO’s “Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016 â€“ 2030” which was adopted by the World Health Assembly in May 2015. He noted that the strategy relies on two ‘pillars’ namely; 1) Universal access to LLINs and IRS, and 2) targeted vector control which will likely come to rely on new tools yet to be developed.
This segued into the introduction of the first RAM PhD scholar Edgar Pollard MSc (from the Solomon Islands) and his research topic “Understanding mosquito flight to maximise malaria control by insecticide impregnated barriers.” Prof Burkot emphasised the need to have a good understanding of the life habits of the vectors so that innovative and flexible controls could be adapted to prevent infection. He described the use of novel insecticide impregnated barriers (IIBs) as another effective control option.
Dr Jack Richards, Head of Malaria Laboratory Burnet Institute:
Unfortunately Dr Richards was unable to attend as his wife gave birth to their second child on the eve of the conference. In lieu of being present he forwarded a series of slides and, on the basis of these and an earlier discussion, Dave Pearson attempted to convey an insight into the programs underway at Burnet. These include development of a new, cheap diagnostic field test for the G6PD enzyme which causes serious side effects to the very good malaria treatment drug Primaquin in those patients that carry it.
Studies are also being undertaken to profile vulnerable proteins in the plasmodium to assist in vaccine development and studying natural immunity development in children. Burnet also supports field work on mapping malaria in Vietnam leading to policy development as well as studies on the development of ACT resistance in the Mekong Valley.