by Karen A. Goraleski, ASTMH Executive Director
As we think about World Malaria Day on April 25, the Navy isn't top-of-mind, but it should be. While many, if not most, Americans don't give this much thought, U.S. military forces are at great risk of developing malaria while deployed in endemic areas. The U.S. Naval Medical Research Center in Maryland and its affiliated labs have a range of efforts that actively work to protect the health of our service-men and -women deployed around the world. Today, we honor them for their efforts in basic and applied research in infectious disease, in particular, malaria.
The Navy's Malaria Programs' activities range from discovery research to clinical trials of candidate vaccines carried out on the campus of the National Naval Medical Center. The primary objective of the Navy Malaria Program is to develop a vaccine that kills the parasite during the first few days of development, before it breaks into the blood. The program is also investigating vaccines that would limit the severity of symptoms associated with early stages. Both types of vaccines could alleviate much of the suffering caused by this parasite in tropical areas.
These efforts get an added and unique benefit from the NMRC's overseas laboratories. These overseas labs enable to study of the malaria parasite in its native habitat, and also help in global coordination of field-testing of novel vaccines and drugs with partners around the world.
The work of the NMRC is an investment in the safety of our military personnel. Gains from this program will also help those living in parts of the world where so many are sickened and die from this entirely treatable and preventable disease. Investing in malaria research is the smart thing to do for the U.S. and the right thing to do for the world.