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The Shoklo Malaria Research Unit (SMRU) led Malaria Elimination Task Force has undertaken mass drug administration campaigns in Eastern Karen State, Myanmar in areas with a high sub microscopic Plasmodium falciparum parasite prevalence.

A child taking pills

Mass drug administration (MDA) is used in villages where a high percentage of people are confirmed positive for P. falciparum by ultra-sensitive qPCR. It works by eliminating this sub-microscopic reservoir of parasites and therefore probably reduces the risk of malaria transmission. In this region most of the P.falciparum isolates are resistant to artemisinins.

SMRU qPCR surveys detected 29 high prevalence hotspots in Myanmar’s Eastern Karen State, many of them hard to access. So far, 19 of these villages have undergone or are receiving mass drug administration. Only one village initially refused to participate. But thanks to community engagement efforts and the dedication and patience of our Community Engagement Team led by Ladda (Micho) Kajeechiwa, the villagers finally agreed to participate in the MDA. Overall, more than 80% of all villagers in hotspots have participated in these MDA campaigns – a very good result, as 80% is the target for effective mass drug administration.

Funded by the Wellcome Trust, The Global Fund and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Malaria Elimination Task Force began in July 2014. This is a collaboration between SMRU and local Karen community-based organisations. The main activities include GIS mapping, community engagement, qPCR surveys to find malaria hotspots and verify that a village qualifies for mass drug administration, mosquito catching, and running malaria posts operated by villagers and using RDTs and ACTs and reporting data on a weekly basis.

Based in Mae Sot, Thailand since 1986, SMRU is a Unit of the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU), which was established in 1979 as a research collaboration between Mahidol University (Thailand), University of Oxford (UK) and the Wellcome Trust.

For more information, kindly contact John Bleho.

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