$2m grant to combat malaria and TB
By Emmanuelle Clarke
A $2 million research grant to work towards the prevention, control and elimination of malaria and tuberculosis (TB) in South-east Asia and the Pacific has been awarded to a consortium led by Menzies School of Health Research, in collaboration with the Burnet Institute.
The project is funded under the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Tropical Disease Research Regional Collaboration Initiative to build and strengthen research collaboration on tropical diseases that pose a trans-boundary threat in Australia’s region.
The research to control escalating multi-drug resistance in malaria and TB in the region will be led by Menzies malaria experts Professor Nicholas Anstey and Professor Ric Price, and TB expert Dr Anna Ralph.
“Drug-resistant malaria and TB are life-threatening diseases and pose serious economic consequences and public health threats to Australia, South-east Asia and the Pacific,” Professor Price said.
Malaria is a major cause of death in South-east Asia, infecting around 500 million people each year, while TB is one of the world’s leading infectious causes of death.
He said the most worrying reports of drug-resistant malaria were in South-east Asia, where malaria was almost untreatable in some areas of Cambodia.
“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,” he said.
Dr Ralph said that TB spread easily and could be difficult to treat.
“Drug-resistant TB, in particular, can cause death or long-term disability,” she said.
A major role for the Burnet Institute would be to progress and assess innovative strategies to address drug-resistant TB, including in neighbouring Papua New Guinea. The institute is currently working with a range of partners in Western Province PNG, a hot spot for drug-resistant TB.
The Burnet Institute TB expert Professor Steve Graham said the aim would be to strengthen local capacity to detect, treat and prevent new TB cases.
The consortium will work hand-in-hand with partners in Indonesia, PNG and Malaysia to strengthen local health systems and build local capacity.