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Saturday, March 6th, 2021

International team gains NIH grant for mass test of anti-malaria drug

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The anti-malaria drug primaquine is the focus of an upcoming, mass treatment routine in Thailand and Myanmar in an effort to prevent relapses of the disease.

A grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) makes that possible. Researchers from the University of South Florida will receive around $700,000 from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to study the effects of these treatments and mosquito control efforts in the region. If the research proceeds well, they could receive up to $4.56 million over the next five years.

“This latest award builds upon existing scientific advances of the Southeast Asia International Center of Excellence for Malaria Research (ICEMR) that focus on various aspects of malaria, including malaria parasite biology, epidemiology, vector control, mosquito insecticide resistance, drug resistance and antimalarial drug quality,” Liwang Cui, principal investigator from the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, said. “Most of our malaria research currently targets Plasmodium falciparum malaria, but to achieve the goal of elimination worldwide, we must successfully attack Plasmodium vivax malaria as well.”

The efficacy of primaquine in eliminating the liver stages of that type of malaria has already been demonstrated, though it requires screening, as it can have dangerous side effects. Its mass distribution will be divided into two stages: evaluation of the regional population’s acceptance/testing of the safety and effectiveness of mass treatment and implementation on a large scale.

The end goal is the elimination of malaria in the Greater Mekong Subregion by 2030.