PATH has received £4 million (US$6.5 million) from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) to accelerate the development of a point-of-care diagnostic test to improve the management of malaria. The funding comes at a critical time in the fight against malaria, as countries seek to accelerate efforts to control and ultimately eliminate the disease.
Though the world has made significant progress against malaria over the last decade, the disease still kills hundreds of thousands of people each year and sickens millions more. Of the different species of malaria parasites that infect humans, Plasmodium vivax (P. vivax), or relapsing malaria, is the most widespread, primarily occurring in South and Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the horn of Africa.
There is only one widely available drug, primaquine, which can provide what’s called “radical cure”—effectively clearing P. vivax from the human body and stopping the disease from relapsing. Primaquine also can kill the form of the malaria parasite that the mosquito needs to ingest in order to transmit the disease to humans, making the drug a potentially powerful tool to help stop malaria transmission completely.
Test to assure safety of treatment
Primaquine belongs to a class of antimalaria drugs that can trigger a widespread breakdown of red blood cells, which can be potentially lethal, in people who are deficient in an enzyme known as glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD). G6PD deficiency is the most common hereditary genetic disorder, affecting more than 400 million people worldwide, and is common in malaria-endemic areas. The safe, widespread use of primaquine depends on development of a diagnostic test that can be used in low-resource settings to identify people with G6PD deficiency.
PATH’s partnership with DFID focuses on developing an affordable, easy-to-use G6PD diagnostic test that can be administered at the point of care to help achieve safe and effective use of medicines for radical cure of patients infected with P. vivax.
Ultimate goal: ending malaria
With DFID’s support, PATH will work with the private and public sectors, as well as diagnostic developers, to accelerate the development, introduction, and scale-up of G6PD tests. This includes evaluating demand-side readiness, strengthening markets, developing products based on target product profiles, and conducting demonstration studies.
Through this partnership, PATH seeks to ensure access to safe and effective malaria drugs for those who need them the most, with the ultimate goal of ending malaria illnesses and deaths.