WEHI's Dr James Beeson adds, "Most of the 2 million or so annual deaths from malaria and much of the severe illness involves children under five years of age. Pregnant women are also highly susceptible to the effects of malaria, but the good news is that they too appear to have much greater immune protection conferred by the preventative or 'presumptive' use of Fansidar. This looks like a case of teaching an old drug new tricks - or perhaps the old drug teaching us that it can perform tricks that we never suspected it could."
The four-year trial is being conducted in PNG for a number of reasons. First, PNG is a relatively confined area with a high concentration of all four types of global malaria ?unlike Africa, where one type predominates. Second, outstanding field researchers with clinical trial capability from the PNGIMR can collaborate with world leading Australian experts in malaria from WEHI and the University of Melbourne. Third, the organizational and public health infrastructure already exists to dispense the tablets in a controlled way, since PNG's children routinely attend clinics to be vaccinated against a range of other diseases.
The project funding allows significant expansion of joint activities and research among the collaborating institutions.
Successful completion of the trial is likely to help inform global health policy in combating this most serious disease of humanity.