University of Maryland medical school gets $9 million grant for malaria research

The University of Maryland School of Medicine has received a $9 million, seven-year federal grant to research and develop tools to help eliminate drug-resistant malaria.

Through the grant from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, university researchers will develop tools to detect malaria in people who do not have symptoms in order to better target the mosquito-borne disease.

The principal investigators are Christopher Plowe, director of the university's Institute for Global Health (IGH), and Myaing Myaing Nyunt, director of IGH Myanmar in the Division of Malaria Research. Their work will be focused in Southeast Asia.

"The approach in the public health community in the past has been to contain drug-resistant malaria and prevent it from spreading, but our research will help us move forward toward eradicating the disease altogether," Plowe said in a statement.

Malaria deaths declined 29 percent between 2010 and 2015, but the disease remains a significant threat, especially in Africa and South Asia. In 2015, there were 212 million cases of malaria and 429,000 malaria deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

In addition to their work in Myanmar and neighboring countries, researchers will work with scientists from the University of Maryland, College Park to design tools that use geospatial mapping to track environmental factors and human movement patterns that could detect malaria "hot spots," Plowe said.

"As we move closer to malaria eradication, it will be harder and harder to find remaining pockets or 'hot spots' of infection," he said in an email.

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