Scientists who are Queensland Tropical Health Alliance researchers contribute to the malaria eradication agenda

Queensland Tropical Health Alliance (QTHA) scientists will debate the malaria eradication agenda at the network's inaugural scientific conference on July 16-17 at the Pullman Reef Casino Hotel in Cairns, Australia.

The QTHA brings together, within one network, world-class researchers focused on the common goal of reducing the burden of tropical diseases in Queensland and other tropical regions. Research is conducted within three broad programs including Drugs, Diagnosis and Vaccines, Indigenous Health and Disease Surveillance and Control. 

Malaria is one of the most significant and deadly diseases of the tropics. This disease, caused by the single-celled parasite, Plasmodium, claims a million or more deaths per year in the tropics. Most of its victims are small children. QTHA researchers from Griffith University, the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR), Queensland University of Technology (QUT), James Cook University (JCU) and The University of Queensland (UQ) are attacking malaria on several fronts to develop novel control strategies.

Director of QTHA, Professor Louis Schofield notes that "No major infectious disease has been eliminated without a vaccine". Professor Schofield's research team focuses on the idea that an ideal vaccine that interrupts transmission of malaria interferes with all of the complex lifecycle stages of this parasite and he has identified a complex molecule, part carbohydrate, part lipid, that is found in all of these stages.

Professor Denise Doolan, QIMR, is working on a complementary angle - how to understand the crucial factors of immunity to malaria. Such understanding will allow vaccine researchers, like Professor Schofield, to find ways to ensure that their vaccines induce strong, protective immune responses.

But what of people for whom a malaria vaccine is too late? Given the problems of drug resistance with this parasite, new drugs to halt malaria infection are vital.

Professor Ron Quinn, Eskitis Institute for Cell and Molecular Therapies, and Professor Mark von Itzstein, Institute for Glycomics, are both from Griffith University, and working on new malaria drugs. Professor Quinn has discovered several promising natural products that can bind to the malaria parasite.

Professor von Itzstein has recognised that surface carbohydrates, unique to many pathogens including malaria, are excellent targets for drug development.

"Targeting a carbohydrate-recognition pathway used by the malaria parasite provides an exciting opportunity to prevent invasion of red blood cells," said Professor von Itzstein.

Indigenous Health is one of three research programs of QTHA and Associate Professor Alan Clough from James Cook University and his team believe that community action is required to reduce psychosocial distress and social exclusion linked with substance misuse in remote indigenous communities. A/Professor Clough will identify why substance misuse and mental health programs for these communities need improved evaluation methods and outcome measures. Jan Robertson, James Cook University will show that addressing social determinants through increased financial capability can lead to improved lifestyle choices including those related to substance misuse. India Bohanna, James Cook University will report the first data on high prevalence of cannabis use and mental health impacts in remote Cape York aboriginal communities.

For more information or to arrange an interview contact Lisa Jones +61 (0)7 4042 1311 or +61 (0) 405620747 or email email/lisa.jones1)(


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