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  • Cross-border malaria research rewarded in Africa


Four African institutions carrying out malaria research have won an international cooperation award from the Prince of Asturias charitable foundation in Spain for their joint efforts.

The award, announced last month (28 May) and worth €50,000 (around US$77,000), went to Ghana's Kintampo Health Research Centre, Mali's Malaria Research and Training Centre, Mozambique's Manhica Centre of Health Research and the Ifakara Health Research and Development Centre in Tanzania. They are scheduled to receive their awards in October this year.

The centres carry out biomedical research, vaccine trials, demography research and local training of personnel.

Ogobara Doumbo, director of the Mali centre, told SciDev.Net the award would help expand successful strategies such as insect-repellent mosquito nets and occasional (intermittent) preventative drug treatment for children and pregnant women.

About 80 researchers have been working on clinical trials of malaria vaccines at four sites in Mali since 2003, including molecular biologist Abdoulaye Djimdé, who developed simple techniques to monitor drug resistant malaria parasites from a drop of blood on filter paper.

Doumbo says they are now working on candidate vaccines targeting the early phase in the parasite's life cycle in the human bloodstream.

The money will be ploughed straight back into further research, says John Aponte, head of the statistics unit at the Barcelona Hospital Clinic and a member of the team at the Manhiça Centre of Health Research.

Aponte said final-stage (phase three) trials of the RTS,S malaria vaccine for children under five years should begin in late 2008 or early 2009 at 11 centres in Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. 

Commentators say that the awards are a sign of Africa being at the forefront of solving African health problems.

"Mozambique and Africa are starting to lead the path toward solving their own health problems, and to deliver useful solutions to the rest of the world,'' Graça Machel, president of nongovernmental organisation the Community Development Foundation in Maputo, who has worked with the Manhiça Centre for 12 years, said in a press statement.

''The work of the recipients reflects their respective commitment to cooperation across national and institutional boundaries — the type of cooperation that will be needed to effectively combat malaria at the global level,'' said Christian Loucq, director of the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, in a press statement.

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