April 25, 2006
Statement of Kathleen Collins, M.Sc., Lee Hall, M.D., Ph.D., and Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
National Institutes of Health
Africa Malaria Day, April 25, 2006, commemorates Africa’s struggle to fight malaria and marks the six-year anniversary of the first African Summit on Malaria. On that occasion, leaders from 44 malaria-affected African nations and founding agencies of the global Roll Back Malaria Partnership gathered in Abuja, Nigeria, to deliberate on the struggle to fight malaria. The summit culminated in the historic signing of the Abuja Declaration, which committed governments to an intensive effort to halve the burden of malaria in Africa by 2010 and mark April 25 as Africa Malaria Day.
Worldwide, an estimated 300 to 500 million clinical cases of malaria occur each year, resulting in an estimated one million deaths annually in Africa alone. This age-old scourge is endemic to more than 90 countries, putting at least 41 percent of the world’s population at risk for malaria infection. In addition, malaria exacts a significant economic toll in affected areas, reducing economic growth in African countries up to 1.3 percent each year.
Africa Malaria Day provides an opportunity to show solidarity with the people and countries most affected by malaria, and to reaffirm our collective commitment to the worldwide efforts to reduce malaria incidence, morbidity and mortality. Reducing the burden of malaria will be accomplished only through research, prevention and control. At the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), we are working with our global partners to accelerate the development of improved diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines and strategies to enhance medical care and treatment in resource-poor settings.
NIAID has a longstanding interest and commitment to malaria research aimed at understanding the biology of malaria parasites and their interactions with their mosquito vectors and human hosts, and at developing, evaluating, and applying the tools needed for effective and sustainable malaria prevention, treatment and control. NIAID works closely with organizations sharing this interest and commitment such as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Commission, the European-Developing Countries Clinical Trial Partnership, the European Malaria Vaccine Initiative, the Wellcome Trust, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Malaria Vaccine Initiative and the Medicines for Malaria Venture. In addition, NIAID has joined with the NIH Fogarty International Center and other institutions to form the Multilateral Initiative on Malaria (MIM). The mission of this initiative is to increase and enhance worldwide research on malaria by facilitating multinational research cooperation, and by supporting the career development and research efforts of African scientists working in malaria-endemic areas. NIAID also has developed and supports the Malaria Research and Reference Reagent Resource Center (MR4) to provide reagents, materials and protocols necessary for malaria research; in addition, plans are under way to support a resource center in Africa.
Today, NIAID-supported scientists in the United States and many other countries, including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Gabon, the Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda, are striving to address the biomedical and public health challenges posed by malaria. These investigators are trying to better understand the vector biology and ecology of mosquitoes and the development of immunity to malaria. Other research focuses on the molecular biology and biochemistry of the parasite; mechanisms of disease pathogenesis; drug susceptibility and drug resistance; and the development of new malaria vaccines and drugs. NIAID also supports clinical researchers in the quest to understand and intervene against severe malaria, especially in children and in pregnant women, two groups that are at particularly high risk. In addition, the Institute supports the clinical evaluation of candidate malaria vaccines in malaria-endemic countries in Africa.
This year’s Africa Malaria Day will highlight the need for universal access to artemesinin-based combination therapies (ACTs). When used with other anti-malaria drugs, artemesinins, a new class of drugs, have proven to be highly effective in curing malaria, and they may dramatically slow the development of drug resistance. NIAID supports preclinical and clinical studies of combination therapies for malaria, especially those including artemesinins.
Currently, 34 African countries have adopted artemesinin-based combination therapies as the first-line treatment, a policy advocated by the WHO, the Global Fund and the Gates Foundation. In June 2005, President Bush announced the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), designed to cut malaria deaths in half after three years of malaria control implementation in at least 12 target countries. The initiative, already active in Angola, Tanzania and Uganda, is led by USAID and the Department of Health and Human Services, which includes NIH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.fightingmalaria.gov). The PMI interventions are threefold: artemesinin-based combination therapies; insecticide-treated nets with indoor residual spraying; and intermittent treatment of pregnant women to prevent malaria.
This year NIAID is commemorating Africa Malaria Day in Kampala, Uganda, by hosting NIAID’s first annual malaria research and prevention meeting, “Malaria Research into Practice: Research to Advise Policy, Policy to Advise Research.” We hope this meeting will begin an invaluable dialogue between communities and provide information about NIAID-funded malaria research to Africans in order to facilitate the development of research strategies aimed at malaria control.
On this Africa Malaria Day, NIAID applauds the global efforts of scientists, healthcare workers, as well as communities and organizations dedicated to developing effective malaria prevention and treatment strategies with the hope of ultimately ridding the world of this terrible killer. We face enormous challenges in reaching our goal, and emphasize the need for a robust, global commitment by all sectors of society to curb malaria.
Further information on Africa Malaria Day 2006 can be found at http://www.rollbackmalaria.org/amd2006/.
Kathleen Collins, M.Sc., is the international program officer for Africa in the NIAID Office of Global Research. Lee Hall, M.D., Ph.D., is chief of the Parasitology and International Programs Branch in the NIAID Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
Media inquiries can be directed to the NIAID News Office at 301-402-1663, email@example.com.
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Last Updated April 25, 2006