Malaria is an acute febrile infectious disease, to which almost 50% of the world population is exposed in more than 109 countries. Every year, there are around 300 million new cases and one million deaths, mostly of children under five years and pregnant women in Africa.
Most malaria cases in Brazil are concentrated in the Amazon region, an endemic area for the disease. In the south of Brazil, despite the few notifications, a higher mortality rate is observed than in the endemic region, leading to the need for prevention and surveillance.
Malaria is caused by a parasite that is transmitted by bites of infected mosquitoes. In the human body, the parasites multiply in the liver, and then infect red blood cells. Symptoms of malaria include fever, headache and vomiting, usually appearing between 10 to 15 days after the mosquito bite.
Malaria is preventable and treatable, and the world history demonstrates it can be eradicated. Less than a century ago, malaria was prevalent throughout the world, including Europe and North America, having been eradicated in Europe in the 30s and in the United States in the 50s. Key interventions to control malaria include: fast and effective treatment with different therapies, use of insecticidal nets for people at risk, and indoor residual spraying with insecticide to control mosquitoes.
However, current tools and treatments are insufficient to achieve malaria elimination in many countries, turning the development of new tools for diagnosis and prevention imperative. The malaria parasite has started to develop resistance to insecticides and to the drugs currently available, and these resistant strains will proliferate. Moreover, most patients with the disease are asymptomatic, providing a continuous source of transmission.
In order to face this global problem, INESC P&D Brazil has a multidisciplinary team with complementary skills in different areas, able to design innovative solutions.