Australian biomedical scientists tackle malaria with on-line malaria information resource

Even though described by Hippocrates as long ago as the 5th century BC, malaria still ranks among the major health and development challenges facing some of the poorest economies.

A recent Harvard University study found that eliminating malaria from sub-Saharan Africa would boost the continent's gross domestic product by $100 billion.

Endemic in 101 countries, malaria affects an estimated 200-300 million people per year resulting in over 2 million deaths the majority of these being children. The World Health Organisation have calculated that a child under 5 years of age dies from malaria every 30 seconds. In simplistic terms, three factors have been identified as major reasons for these fatalities.

  1. Patient too far from medical assistance.
  2. Inappropriate treatment due to "fake drugs" or drug resistant malaria.
  3. Incorrect diagnosis by clinical/laboratory staff/healthcare workers.

Even though hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on malaria research, a small group of Biomedical Scientists from Royal Perth Hospital in Western Australia felt that they could help in the war against malaria by tackling the third of these identified causes, on a shoestring budget. They developed an on-line malaria information resource using Internet technology, to bring the knowledge and experience of the authors to healthcare professionals worldwide. To date this site has been accessed by more than 600,000 visitors. Recognising inequalities of access to the Internet, with many centres having limited or cost prohibitive access, a version of the malaria project was produced on CD-ROM and distributed, on request, free of charge courtesy of sponsors Abbott Diagnostics. With help from international colleagues, later versions of the CD were produced which included French and Spanish translations. The CD-ROMs have been requested and sent to thousands of institutions spanning 149 countries.

The latest updated version (MK VI) of this educational malaria CD-ROM is now in production and will be ready for distribution in early September. Any health/educational institutions or health centres with limited internet access are invited to apply for a free copy by writing or e.mailing to the address below."

Malaria On-Line Project http://www.rph.wa.gov.au/labs/haem/malaria/index.html

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