A team of Duke University researchers and African colleagues will be studying strategies to curb the spread of malaria while protecting human and environmental health. The work in regions where the potentially deadly, mosquito-borne disease occurs will be supported by a $2.2 million, four-year grant from the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

"We'll be performing experiments in 24 villages in the Mvomero district of Tanzania to assess the effectiveness of different intervention strategies individually and in combination," said principal investigator Randall A. Kramer, professor of environmental economics at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment and the Duke Global Health Institute.

What Kramer and his colleagues learn will be used to refine a model they have developed, called the Malaria Decision Analysis Support Tool (MDAST). Scientists and public health officials can use the model to improve the effectiveness and safety of malaria control strategies in differing localized conditions and circumstances worldwide.

In the Tanzania experiments, villages will be randomly assigned to receive one of four disease-control options: no intervention; chemical treatments that kill mosquito larvae; rapid diagnostic testing for malaria by health workers; or both larvicide and rapid diagnostic testing. This will allow the researchers to better understand which strategy or combination of them works best, in different conditions, to protect human health without posing undue human or environmental risks from the misuse or overuse of chemical larvicides.

"The central objective is to improve malaria control through an approach that integrates health delivery and decision-support modeling, to promote joint optimization of vector control and disease management strategies," Kramer said.

Marie Lynn Miranda is Kramer's co-principal investigator on the new grant. She is an associate professor of environmental sciences and policy and director of the Children's Environmental Health Initiative at the Nicholas School, and associate professor of pediatrics at the Duke School of Medicine.

Their team includes collaborators from Duke, the University of Pretoria, South Africa, and the National Institute for Medical Research in Tanzania.

Source:
Tim Lucas
Duke University

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