Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease that can cause infected people to become very sick with high fever, chills, and flu-like illness. It can also cause death. Substantial progress has been made globally to control and eliminate malaria, but it continues to be a significant public health problem with roughly 3.2 billion people worldwide at risk for the disease.

Why Is the Study of Malaria a Priority for NIAID?

Roughly 3.2 billion people—almost half of the world’s population—are at risk of malaria, according to the World Health Organization. Although substantial progress has been made in the fight to control and eliminate malaria, the mosquito-borne disease remains a significant public health problem.

How Is NIAID Addressing This Critical Topic?

NIAID is the lead agency in the U.S. federal government supporting malaria research and development. The Institute has a longstanding commitment to malaria research to support the goals of reducing morbidity and mortality from malaria and ultimately eradicating the disease. NIAID is conducting and supporting research to better understand the disease, develop effective alternatives to mosquito control, and create diagnostics, treatments, and a vaccine to prevent infection.

To learn about risk factors for malaria and current prevention and treatment strategies visit the MedlinePlus malaria site.

Image of malaria-infected red blood cell.
Credit: NIAID

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of red blood cell infected with malaria parasites, which are colorized in blue. The infected cell is in the center of the image area. To the left are uninfected cells with a smooth red surface.

Parasite, Mosquito & Human Host

NIAID plays a unique role in the global effort against malaria in that it funds the majority of basic malaria research. The NIAID Malaria Research Program encompasses a broad range of topics, covering the full cycle of malarial disease—from parasite to mosquito to human host. Increased knowledge of these three elements and the multifaceted interactions among them is critical in developing effective tools to prevent and control malaria.

Prevention, Treatment & Control

Malaria is a difficult disease to control largely due to the highly adaptable nature of the vector and parasites involved. While effective tools have been and will continue to be developed to combat malaria, inevitably, over time the parasites and mosquitoes will evolve means to circumvent those tools if used in isolation or used ineffectively. To achieve sustainable control over malaria, healthcare professionals will need a combination of new approaches and tools, and research will play a critical role in development of those next-generation strategies.

Global Cooperation

Collaboration involving scientists from diverse disciplines is necessary to accelerate malaria research. Over the next several years, creating global opportunities for basic scientists, epidemiologists, vector biologists, clinicians, and product development experts to interact and coordinate research efforts will be critical in advancing an interdisciplinary approach to malaria research.

Content last reviewed on June 27, 2016