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Gates Grant Funding Malaria Control Test Products

Anopheles mosquito

Anopheles mosquito (CDC.gov)

9 February 2017. Two universities in the U.K. are developing testing protocols for a new generation of technologies coming to market to prevent mosquitoes from spreading diseases. The project by faculty at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and University of Warwick is funded by a three-year, $2 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Among the priorities for the Gates Foundation is eradication of malaria, which World Health Organization says affected 212 million people in 2015, and extracts heavy social and economic burdens in developing countries. In 2015, some 429,000 people died from malaria, of which 92 percent were in sub-Sahara Africa. Children under the age of 5 are particularly susceptible to the disease.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by Anopheles mosquitoes, but despite medical and other interventions such as insecticides and bed nets, the disease continues to plague many developing regions in Africa and South Asia. Part of the foundation’s strategy is to stay ahead of emerging resistance to current drugs and insecticides, which requires new types of tools to control the vectors, or mosquitoes that carry malaria.

The Gates Foundation grant aims to produce better tools for testing new products designed to control malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. Current methods for evaluating malaria-control products are rudimentary lab tests that in many cases have not kept up with the evolving nature of malaria. The grant to the Liverpool-Warwick team supports research and development of new tools for assessing the effectiveness of products to control the spread of malaria.

The project enlists two medical entomologists from the Liverpool School, Phillip McCall and Hilary Ransom, and mechanical engineering professor David Towers.”The team aims to develop experimental procedures to record the impact of exposure to an active ingredient or formulated product over the lifetime of the mosquito,” says McCall in a Liverpool School statement. “At the end of the three-year project, tests will be assembled into a defined pipeline for optimizing impact assessment of potential new vector control products under laboratory controlled conditions and we will produce an updated manual for the laboratory analysis of vector control products for consideration by WHO.”

Among the work supported by the grant is a video tracking technology that records a mosquito’s behavior systematically and in sufficient detail to detect and quantify patterns in that behavior. “We hope the use of video-tracking and associated data analytics,” adds Towers, “combined with the significant expertise at LSTM will lead to better understanding of vector control approaches and hence significantly improved products to combat the spread of malaria throughout Africa.”

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