MMV participates in Asia Pacific efforts to eliminate malaria

Third annual meeting of APMEN held in Malaysia.

25 May 2011

The third annual meeting of the Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network (APMEN III) was held from May 9-12 in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. The meeting celebrated the on-going efforts within the region to reduce the scourge of malaria, to share experiences on how countries are working towards elimination of malaria, and work collaboratively on projects in research, capacity building, and advocacy.

In attendance was the Malaysian Deputy Minister of Health, Datuk Rosnah binti Abd. Rashid Shirlin, and Health Director General, Dato’ Dr Hasan bin Abdul Rahman, alongside 80 representatives from the 11 Country Partners and research and partner institutions from the region, including the WHO. Bhutan, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Republic of Korea, the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vanuatu were represented as partner countries and Vietnam, Cambodia and Nepal attended as meeting observers.  APMEN III was locally attended by Ian Bathurst from Medicines for Malaria Venture, a malaria drug development foundation based in Geneva.

“APMEN is a great concept – it brings together countries fighting malaria who share experiences around malaria control,” said Dr Bathurst. “I was particularly impressed by the training that APMEN sponsors. It was extremely useful to interact with the malaria community and learn how some countries in this region have already eliminated malaria while others are still struggling with it. To understand the problems that these countries are facing will help shape future MMV’s research for new medicines to defeat malaria.”

During the APMEN III meeting, participants discussed updates on progress towards elimination of malaria. Two technical topics were explored in depth: Plasmodium vivax, the malaria species that is resilient to elimination efforts due to a dormant liver stage, and Plasmodium knowlesi, a species that is naturally hosted in a type of monkey, macaques, and was recently found to infect humans in Malaysia. Delegates heard from public health officials from Brunei, which was certified malaria-free in 1987, who stressed the need for continued commitment to surveillance against malaria in order to prevent re-introduction and outbreaks of the disease. The APMEN Fellowship and Research Grant programs were showcased. They are initiatives that enable malaria control staff to gain elimination-specific skills from other APMEN institutions and support operational research for APMEN countries through small grants. A workshop was also held on how to type the malaria parasites using genotypes. In response for the need for improved mapping of cases APMEN formed a new group to help with surveillance and the use of geographical information systems. The meeting was hailed a success by participants.

More information can be found on the APMEN website.