WEHI’s malaria research team has several aims.
To accelerate our discoveries:
Malaria is a disease that is caused by a parasite. The parasite can get into our bodies when we are bitten by certain types of mosquitoes that are infected with the parasite. These mosquitoes are most common in hot, tropical regions like Africa and Asia.
While malaria is preventable and curable, it still claims the lives of more than 600,000 people worldwide every year. The disease is most deadly to pregnant women and children aged under five, particularly in poorer countries where malaria-fighting medicine is not always accessible.
Malaria is a major cause of death and loss of productivity in many countries in South-East Asia, the Pacific and Africa.
The parasite Plasmodium causes malaria. It is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito.
See this process in the WEHI.TV biomedical animation Malaria Lifecycle Part 1: Human Host
The malaria parasite has a complex lifecycle. When a malaria parasite enters the blood, via mosquito saliva, it travels to a person’s liver. Here it undergoes a ‘silent’ development stage. It multiplies in the liver cells but does not cause illness.
Parasites then move into the blood, where they infect red blood cells. This stage makes a person sick and causes symptoms of malaria, such as:
There are five species of parasite that can cause malaria in humans. Our research is focused on the two species that cause the greatest devastation:
If someone has malaria, there are antimalarial drugs that can help. Sometimes the drugs don’t work as well because the malaria is getting stronger and becoming resistant to the drugs. That’s why we need new drugs to fight it.
Vaccines could help stop malaria from spreading. Our scientists are trialling two different vaccines to see if they could be effective in treating malaria.
Malaria can be prevented by:
People who are at greatest risk of falling sick to malaria include: