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Winning the Fight Against Malaria
In wealthy countries, the war against malaria was won nearly half a century ago, but the disease continues to afflict communities in the developing world.
Now the University of Florida is doing what it can to help fight malaria. UF recently announced that it has received a $1.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop modeling tools for malaria elimination. This is the first time a UF researcher has been awarded a direct grant from the foundation.
David L. Smith, associate director of disease ecology at UF's Emerging Pathogens Institute and an associate professor in the biology department, will lead work on the new project. Smith's previous research has focused on policy-oriented science related to malaria outbreaks, spread and management.
"To plan, we need to understand how malaria parasites move around in humans, and we also need to understand the interplay between economic and ecological aspects of malaria elimination," said Smith. "These are difficult questions to answer, but we hope to provide some quantitative advice to help guide countries as they make strategic decisions about malaria elimination."
The Emerging Pathogens Institute brings together researchers from diverse fields to develop control, diagnostic and treatment plans including vaccines and other antimicrobials for new and emerging diseases. The institute's focus is to develop the research capabilities to prevent and contain outbreaks of new diseases that threaten Florida, the rest of the country and ultimately the world.
This research is also part of efforts by the Malaria Atlas Project to develop evidence-based high spatial resolution maps of malaria endemicity. The modeling tools will help to fill gaps in malaria theory so these maps can be used for malaria elimination planning. The new research will increase the general understanding of disease transmission.
"We want to connect malaria transmission models, malaria endemicity maps and high-resolution human population maps," said Andy Tatem, a new member of the Emerging Pathogens Institute and the UF geography department, who helped develop the grant.