Statement of B. F. (Lee) Hall, M.D., Ph.D., and Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.
Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
National Institutes of Health
April 25, 2007, marks the seventh commemoration of Africa Malaria Day, a day chosen in 2000 by African governments to reaffirm their commitment, embodied in the Abuja Declaration, to halve the burden of malaria in Africa by 2010. Africa Malaria Day has served to remind the global community of the enormous burden exacted by this ancient scourge on the most impoverished and vulnerable populations in the world. This year, the United States government formally marks its solidarity with the global community by designating today “Malaria Awareness Day.”
Despite extraordinary political, economic, social, and medical advances, more than 40 percent of the world’s population lives in areas where they are at risk of contracting malaria. Each year, an estimated 300 to 500 million clinical cases of malaria occur, and the disease claims more than one million lives, predominantly children under the age of 5 years and young pregnant women. In addition to this shocking death toll and the associated social burden it imposes, malaria-associated morbidity reduces economic productivity and quality of life. It has been estimated that malaria accounts for a reduction in economic growth rates of up to 1.3 percent per year in affected countries.
Growing awareness of these appalling statistics has prompted many new initiatives to regain ground lost in the war against malaria. For example, in its most recent round of funding, 24 percent of the support provided by the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was dedicated to combating malaria. In 2005, President Bush launched the President’s Malaria Initiative, a five-year, $1.2 billion effort to prevent malaria deaths by providing effective therapeutics to promptly treat malaria, as well as bednets and indoor residual spraying to prevent malaria. At the White House Summit on Malaria in December 2006, the President launched the Malaria Communities Program and expanded the Volunteers for Prosperity program for malaria. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) applauds these efforts to bring treatment and control strategies to malaria-endemic areas to reduce the burden of disease.
The theme of this year’s Africa Malaria Day is “Leadership and Partnership for Results.” While much of the focus of the day will be on control strategies and program implementation, NIAID proudly recognizes the efforts of many research scientists and public health officials who are providing the evidence to identify and validate new interventions against malaria. Malaria has proven to be a resilient foe, and the unflagging efforts, insights, and drive of these valiant men and women are still much needed today. As the lead federal agency for malaria research and development, NIAID remains firm in its commitment to develop effective new tools of treatment and prevention and to strengthen partnerships with groups who share such interests. To this end, NIAID recently announced a new initiative on NIAID Partnerships with Public-Private Partnerships, designed to strengthen the pipeline for novel products and interventions against malaria and other neglected tropical diseases.
NIAID has a longstanding interest in and commitment to malaria research, focused on understanding the biology of malaria parasites and their interactions with mosquito vectors and human hosts, and developing the tools needed for effective and sustainable malaria prevention, treatment, and control. NIAID-supported scientists in the United States and many other countries, including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Uganda, are striving to address the biomedical research and public health challenges posed by malaria. These investigators are working to better understand the vector biology and ecology of mosquitoes and the development of immunity to malaria. Other research focuses on the molecular biology and biochemistry of the parasite; mechanisms of disease pathogenesis; drug susceptibility and drug resistance; and the development of new malaria vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics. NIAID also supports clinical researchers in the quest to understand and intervene against severe malaria, especially in children and pregnant women, two groups that are at especially high risk. In addition, the Institute supports the clinical evaluation of novel therapeutics and candidate malaria vaccines in malaria-endemic countries in Africa.
NIAID works closely with organizations such as the U.S. Agency for International Development, the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Commission, the European-Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership, the European Malaria Vaccine Initiative, the Wellcome Trust, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Malaria Vaccine Initiative, and the Medicines for Malaria Venture. In addition, NIAID has joined with the NIH Fogarty Center, the National Library of Medicine, the Special Programme on Research and Training in Tropical Diseases at WHO, and other institutions to form the Multilateral Initiative on Malaria. The mission of this initiative is to increase and enhance research on malaria worldwide by facilitating multinational research cooperation, and by supporting the career development and research efforts of African scientists working in malaria-endemic areas. NIAID also has developed and supports the Malaria Research and Reference Reagent Resource Center (MR4) to provide reagents, materials, and protocols necessary for malaria research.
Today NIAID acknowledges the efforts of scientists, healthcare workers, communities, and organizations dedicated to identifying and developing effective malaria prevention and treatment. Enormous challenges confront us as a global community; however, we are optimistic that with commitment, leadership, and partnerships, new tools and intervention strategies that are highly effective can be identified, and great strides are possible as we move forward to curb malaria.
Lee Hall, M.D., Ph.D., is chief of the Parasitology and International Programs Branch in the NIAID Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
NIAID’s public information booklet, Understanding Malaria: Fighting an Ancient Scourge (PDF), can be ordered at http://www.niaid.nih.gov/publications/orderforms/freepampo.htm.
Media inquiries can be directed to the NIAID News Office at 301-402-1663, firstname.lastname@example.org.
NIAID is a component of the National Institutes of Health. NIAID supports basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose, and treat infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, influenza, tuberculosis, malaria, and illness from potential agents of bioterrorism. NIAID also supports research on basic immunology, transplantation, and immune-related disorders, including autoimmune diseases, asthma, and allergies.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH)—the nation's medical research agency—includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.