Malaria prevalence in The Gambia has reduced substantially over the last few years. However, the factors that maintain transmission despite the decrease in the disease remain little understood.
Recently, Professor Umberto d’Alessandro (MRC Unit The Gambia) and international colleagues have been awarded a substantial Medical Research Council programme grant to investigate these factors in their project ‘Malaria elimination in Sub-Saharan African: essential tools and identifiable targets.’ Commenting on the purpose of the award, Professor d’Alessandro said ‘The idea is to take The Gambia as a test case and try to understand the factors that maintain transmission despite the decrease. That information will be extremely useful for countries that are in the same situation as The Gambia such as Senegal, Mali, Mauritania – and Tanzania and southern African – countries where transmission has decreased but where the disease has not been eliminated completely.’
As malaria transmission tends to be very heterogeneous, villages with high transmission may be situated relatively near to those with low transmission, and currently it is not understood why. Professor d’Alessandro commented ‘The project will investigate the factors behind this and also seek to understand why there are people in rural areas where malaria transmission is ongoing but don’t get the disease.’ The researchers will also be looking into whether the vectors will adapt to high bed net coverage and indoor residual spraying by developing resistance.
Researchers in The Gambia will be working closely with the Government’s National Malaria Control Programme. It is also hoped that this programme grant will provide a platform for more funding ‘so that we can really drive the malaria elimination agenda in The Gambia.’ concluded Professor d’Alessandro.
The five year grant is valued at approximately £2 million.