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LSTM to lead $30 million research program into malaria in pregnancy
Date:3/7/2008

The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine has received a $30 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve the control and treatment of malaria in pregnancy in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The five year programme will directly benefit the 50 million women who face exposure to malaria whilst pregnant every year.

The grant will fund research at Liverpool and at 38 partner institutions in 27 countries around the world. The research consortium is also supported by the European Union, and is seeking additional funding from other donors.

Malaria in pregnancy is a major cause of severe maternal anaemia and preventable low birth weight in infants, which greatly increases risk of death. It is estimated that more effective control of malaria in pregnancy could save the lives of up to 100,000 children every year in Africa alone.

There is less detailed information on the effects of malaria in pregnancy outside Africa. Although transmission rates are lower, natural immunity is also lower, therefore the consequences of malaria infection are more often severe, with a much higher risk of the death of the mother, baby or both.

The primary aims of the research address four key areas:

Burden

  • Obtain a better understanding of the burden of malaria in pregnancy in regions outside Africa where malaria is common.

Treatment

  • Further evaluate which of the new generation of antimalarial drugs can be used safely and effectively for the treatment of pregnant women with malaria in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Prevention

  • Identify safe alternative antimalarials for the prevention of malaria in pregnancy in Africa to replace the commonly used drug sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine (to which many malaria parasites have developed resistance).

  • Determine the most effective combinations of drugs and other tools that reduce the risk of mosquito bites (eg insecticide treated bednets), thus preventing malaria in pregnancy.

  • Evaluate new interventions for the control of malaria in pregnancy in low transmission regions outside of Africa.

Coverage and utilisation

  • Establish the best way to increase the coverage and utilisation of existing strategies to control malaria in pregnancy.

Consortium leader Dr Feiko ter Kuile explained: In contrast to the recent focus on preventing malaria deaths in young children, the impact of malaria in pregnancy has until now been a relatively neglected area of research. This grant provides researchers from all over the world with the opportunity to conduct a much expanded and much needed research programme that is focussed on this other high risk group.

There are four main research theme areas consisting of ten major projects. The work is conducted jointly by expert institutions from all over the world that have agreed to use standardized methods and share information. This consortium approach generates a new momentum of life-saving research, which will provide evidence-based policy changes in the shortest possible time.

Defeating malaria will require new and better tools to prevent and treat the disease in pregnancy, said Dr Regina Rabinovich, director of Infectious Diseases Development at the Gates Foundation. By undertaking this important research, Liverpool and its partners will help bring the world closer to the ultimate goal of malaria eradication.


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Contact: Alan Hughes
a.p.hughes@liv.ac.uk
44-151-705-3308
Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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