Continuing her crusade against malaria, Terrie E. Taylor is once again on the hunt to find out why this deadly disease is still going strong in the African nation of Malawi, despite ongoing malaria control efforts in the country.
Taylor, Michigan State University Distinguished Professor of internal medicine and an osteopathic physician, will use a 7-year, $8.5 million federal grant to study why previous malaria prevention and eradication methods have been unsuccessful and how progress can be made.
“This program has two major aims, preventing malaria infection in the first place, and understanding how some individuals can remain infected without ever becoming sick,” said Taylor. “That latter group represents ‘reservoirs of infection’ – people going about their daily lives not realizing they are infected, all the while transmitting the disease to others through mosquitoes.”
Her work is part of the International Centers of Excellence in Malaria Research, a program created in 2010 and funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. This is the second ICEMR grant Taylor and her team have been awarded.
Taylor’s team also will focus on the mosquitoes themselves, from learning which people are good sources of parasites for the mosquitoes, to determining how changing mosquito behavior and insecticide resistance are impacting the effects of mosquito netting hung in houses.
While increased efforts targeting malaria elimination and eradication have had some effect on malaria infection and illness, death rates from malaria are still too high. The World Health Organization estimates that 212 million new cases of malaria and 429,000 malaria deaths, mostly in Africa, occurred in 2015.
This research is a companion to Taylor’s ongoing efforts to prevent childhood deaths from cerebral malaria by developing the first malaria treatments. Taylor’s battle against malaria, which she refers to as the “Voldemort of parasites,” has been waged since 1986. She spends six months every year in Malawi conducting malaria research and treating children.
In addition to Taylor’s team at MSU, partners in the ICEMR program include University of Malawi, University of Michigan and University of Maryland.
MALARIA FACTS AND FIGURES
- Terrie Taylor’s groundbreaking research into cerebral malaria was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2015. She identified that children who die from cerebral malaria do so from massively swollen brains that compress the brain stem and cause the child to stop breathing.
- Taylor is using a separate $8.4M NIH grant to identify the first-ever treatments for children with cerebral malaria. The research will be conducted in Malawi's first pediatric surgery and intensive care unit built by Raising Malawi, an organization founded by pop legend Madonna.
- Cerebral malaria kills a child every two minutes.
- In 2015, malaria killed an estimated 303,000 children under 5 years of age globally, including 292,000 in the African region.
Read a story about Taylor's work and the ICEMR grant in The State News.