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In 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) established the World Malaria Day as an annual international day of action. Its purpose is to remind that more than three billion people in the world are at risk from malaria. The WHO and other organizations are working to roll back this infectious disease at great financial and logistical expense. This has led to a reduction in new cases in recent years. However, for the first-time last year, the WHO recorded an increase to around 230 million malaria cases worldwide, of which more than 400,000 were fatal. Children under the age of five in Africa account for more than two-thirds of the deaths. Our interview partners for journalists can be found below.
The Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM) in Hamburg is dedicated to malaria research. The spectrum ranges from molecular studies of the malaria parasite and research into its spread and clinical course to vaccination and drug studies in Africa. For example, in order to be able to test an antimalarial therapy with a next-generation triple combination, BNITM is conducting a multicenter clinical trial in four African Countries (Ghana, Mali, Gabon and Benin) together with the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research (KCCR) in Ghana. The focus here is on the efficacy and safety of an antimalarial treatment that is vital, especially for children in sub-Saharan Africa.
"In Southeast Asia, the efficacy of proven artemisinin-based combination therapies has already declined significantly due to the emergence of artemisinin-resistant strains," warns Dr. Oumou Maiga-Ascofaré, project coordinator at KCCR and BNITM. "Resistant strains may also spread in Africa and compromise efforts already achieved in reducing the burden caused by Malaria," she adds. Further development of new drug combinations is therefore urgently needed before artemisinin-resistant malaria strains spread widely throughout Africa, she sais.
The COVID-19 pandemic still dominates public life with implications for research worldwide. Although reported case numbers with the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 are still relatively low in malaria-affected countries, COVID-19 is already having a significant impact on the daily lives of people in Africa. WHO emphasizes that despite these drastic changes, efforts to research (Artemisinin-Resistance eludicated, Science 2020, AG Spielmann), prevention, diagnostic, and treatment of malaria (New combination therapy, 2019 press release) should continue under all circumstances. At the same time, however, precautions must be taken to protect the population and health workers in Africa from COVID-19. Professor Jürgen May, Head of Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at BNITM, emphasizes, "If COVID-19 puts too much strain on health systems, it is to be feared that there will be a significant increase in malaria cases."
In the course of migratory movements, experts observe expansions of endemic areas. Scientists are concerned that malaria areas could spread further as a result of globalization and climate change. Implementation research at BNITM aims to detect and prevent this in time. This branch of research is dedicated to questions of how best to combat diseases such as malaria. Disciplines like e-health, health economics or modern ways of health communication are also important to support control measures against malaria more effectively in endemic areas and thus strengthen health systems in the long term.
On the occasion of World Malaria Day, the listed scientists are available for interviews free of charge to press representatives today and on 25 April:
Prof. Dr. Egbert Tannich
Prof. Dr. Jürgen May
Epidemiology, Malaria in Afrika
Prof. Dr. Michael Ramharter
Tel.: 0049-40-42818-1330, -264
We ask that the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine be mentioned as the source when quoting in texts and interviews as well as when using sound bites in TV and online contributions.