UP awarded status as MRC collaborative centre for malaria research

The Medical Research Council (MRC) invited higher education institutions, science councils and registered non-profit research organisations in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique to submit applications to become part of their new initiative, MRC Collaborating Centres for Malaria Research. The University of Pretoria’s Centre for Sustainable Malaria Control (UP CSMC) recently received word that their application has been successful. The network of MRC collaborating centres for malaria research will collectively provide a multidisciplinary approach to malaria research; synergise efforts on malaria research to achieve common goals; and facilitate scientific collaboration among malaria researchers in Southern Africa.

The collaborating centres involved in the initiative will receive an annual core grant for an initial period of three years and will become members of the MRC network for malaria research. The UP CSMC, in particular, will receive funding from the MRC to further develop the infrastructure that will enable it to continue to engage in cutting-edge research on innovative vector control methods that are safe and effective. In addition, institutions selected to form part of the initiative will be given a preferential opportunity to participate in national multicentre studies based on the priorities defined in the MRC’s national malaria research plan.

‘To get the status of an MRC collaborating centre is not only recognition at the highest national level, but is also giving credibility to the researchers, and opening up international opportunities’, says Prof Tiaan de Jager, Deputy Dean: Research, Faculty of Health Sciences at UP and Director of the UP CSMC.

The UP CSMC has pioneered research on a range of methods for sustainable malaria control – from the biochemical and the biological to the chemical and the physical. Current research in the Centre focuses on how best to manage these methods at a transdisciplinary level. Community involvement and education are addressed as part of health promotion and there is a commitment to change affected communities’ behaviour towards malaria. Environmentally friendly ways of delivering chemicals for malaria prevention are among the novel ideas being explored. The focus of the UP CSMC is safer malaria control and management.

Southern African countries, such as South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Swaziland, which are situated on the fringe of malaria transmission in Africa, have all seen a reduction in malaria cases over the last decade; in fact, most of these countries now meet the pre-elimination criteria of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and are set to eliminate malaria by 2018. That being said, a lot of work still needs to be done towards eradicating the disease completely, but through education and research into new and innovative methods of fighting the disease we can imagine a day when the whole of Southern Africa will be malaria-free.

Story by: Ansa Heyl, UP News, University of Pretoria