Malaria team named 2019 Eureka Prize winner

Malaria team named 2019 Eureka Prize winner

Illuminate newsletter index page, September 2019
September 2019

Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease that affects
humans and other animals. 

A team of Institute researchers tackling the world’s most widespread and insidious malaria threat have won a 2019 Australian Museum Eureka Prize.

The vivax malaria team of Associate Professor Wai-Hong Tham, Professor Ivo Mueller, Associate Professor Leanne Robinson, Dr Rhea Longley and Dr Michael White won the Eureka Prize for Infectious Diseases Research.

Associate Professor Tham said Plasmodium vivax was a particularly complex health challenge globally.

P. vivax is the main obstacle to malaria elimination in the Asia-Pacific and Americas,” Associate Professor Tham said.

“The parasite can lie dormant in the body before re-emerging to cause disease, and asymptomatic carriers continue to transmit the parasite.

“Our team combines unique expertise in malaria biology, population studies and statistical models to overcome these challenges and support the region-wide goal of malaria elimination by 2030,” she said.

The vivax malaria team has extensive experience and strong partnerships with research institutes, ministries of health and communities in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in Papua New Guinea.

Significant breakthroughs

The team’s successes to date include discovering novel vaccine candidates against P. vivax and developing the first ever blood test to identify recently-infected people for immediate antimalarial treatment to halt further transmission.

Institute director Professor Doug Hilton said the team was internationally renowned for their contributions to the ongoing pursuit of malaria elimination strategies.

“Each member of the team is a world leader in their field and their breadth of expertise has created a beautifully complementary team bound by a common goal – to diagnose and prevent vivax malaria,” said Professor Hilton.

“Their research discoveries have already led to major breakthroughs and have the potential to lead to many more.”

Super Content: 
Bacteria growing in petri dishes

Our malaria research program and why research the disease.

Map showing distribution of malaria in the Asia-Pacific region

We are a member of the Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network (APMEN), an international collaborative network working towards eliminating malaria in the Asia-Pacific region.

Wai-Hong Tham with collaborators in her office

"Science doesn't exist as an island."

Molecular parasitologist and lab head, Dr Wai-Hong Tham talks about collaboration at the institute.