Malaria Research Program Goals

Basic Research Goals

  • Explore the acquisition and maintenance of immunity to Plasmodium parasites during natural and experimental malaria infections in humans and experimental models.
  • Understand how Plasmodium parasites cause disease and identify parasite and host factors that determine disease outcome.
  • Investigate the physiology of Plasmodium parasites, including nutrient uptake and erythrocyte invasion, and identify mechanisms of resistance to antimalarial drugs.
  • Understand the interactions between Plasmodium parasites and mosquito vectors that drive malaria transmission.

Translational Research Goals

This fundamental knowledge would be the basis to develop new malaria control strategies such as the following:

  • Vaccines to prevent the blood stage of the disease and adjunctive therapies for severe disease. While we continue to seek full eradication of malaria, the development of effective blood-stage vaccines and adjunctive therapies for severe disease would save the lives of countless children and pregnant women around the world and thus be a priority for research.
  • A vaccine to interrupt malaria transmission. To block the cycle of malaria transmission, vaccines are needed that prevent liver-stage infections and/or block the ability of the gametocytes to be transmitted or to develop in the mosquito.
  • Measures to reduce the effectiveness of the mosquito vector. Anopheles gambiae and Anopheles funestus complexes, the prevailing mosquitoes in Africa, are “super vectors” for malaria, having a long life span, feeding primarily on humans, and being highly susceptible to infection. To eradicate malaria, researchers will need to develop methods to modify mosquitoes so that they no longer transmit malaria and to introduce these modified mosquitoes into the field, in Africa and other endemic regions.
  • Effective antimalarial drugs that treat the blood stage of the disease and interrupt transmission. Several such drugs are in various phases of discovery and development, but drug resistance always develops, and new drugs will be needed to control malaria prior to elimination. Drugs are also needed to kill Plasmodium vivax in the liver, preventing relapses. Developing such drugs will likely require understanding the dormant liver phase of the parasite.
  • Rapid diagnostic tests that can quickly detect malaria cases and parasite carriers in human populations. New and improved rapid diagnostic tests will be needed that detect and direct appropriate use of treatments for malaria parasites versus other infectious causes of febrile illness. These tests will be particularly important where malaria control programs reduce the prevalence of infections to low levels prior to eradication.
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