Despite significant progress being made through the rollout of effective prevention and treatment methods, malaria remains a significant problem around the world for both individuals and governments. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) around 3.2 billion people remain at risk of malaria and in 2017 alone there were an estimated 219 million new cases of malaria and 435,000 deaths.
While Africa continues to be hit the hardest by this disease, a significant threat still exists within the Asia-Pacific region and in the areas where the ADF conducts operations. The Australian Government recently reaffirmed its commitment to eliminate malaria in the Asia-Pacific by 2030 and the ADF’s own Malaria and Infectious Diseases Institute* (ADFMIDI) is currently working with a number of other research organisations, including the University of Queensland and the Queensland Institute of Medical Research to realise this goal. As the WHO’s Regional Collaborating Centre for the Western Pacific, ADFMIDI is responsible for both teaching military preventive medicine to ADF personnel as well as improving malaria and viral diagnostic capabilities throughout the region.
However the evolution of parasite drug resistance in the past decades has presented new challenges which can only be addressed by ongoing laboratory research and clinical field trials. This work is particularly important for the ADF as members are often deployed into remote areas and exposed to harsh environments where is it difficult to prevent mosquito bites using bed nets and insect repellents. Just as one has to field test any military equipment under realistic conditions to be certain it will perform well during war, new medical interventions such as drugs, vaccines and insect repellents must be rigorously proven to satisfy operational as well as safety and regulatory requirements.
The most current global information about malaria is available on the World Health Organization website.
*In 2017 the Army Malaria Institute was renamed the Australian Defence Force Malaria and Infectious Diseases Institute