MalariaX: Defeating Malaria from the Genes to the Globe

How can we eradicate malaria? Explore cutting-edge science and technology, and examine policies needed, to control and eliminate malaria.

Open September 30, 2019 – July 28, 2021.

What you’ll learn

  • The biology of the malaria parasite, the mosquito vector, and the human host
  • The challenges of eradicating malaria in complex ecosystems
  • Scientific and technological approaches for malaria control and elimination
  • Historical, political, social, and economic contexts of malaria control, elimination, and eradication efforts
  • How health systems effectively monitor and respond to malaria

Course description

How can we eradicate malaria? Explore the scientific and technological underpinnings of malaria, as well as the historical, political, social, and economic contexts in which control, elimination, and eradication efforts unfold.

Through foundational lectures and supplemental interviews, this course provides participants with a toolbox of knowledge and skills. Learners will be guided through the analysis of real-world data and its effective use in problem-solving. Analytical approaches focus on how to develop and implement evidence-based intervention strategies to contribute to national and local malaria eradication efforts.

Course outline

  • Setting the Stage for Malaria EliminationThe course begins with the “big picture.” In the lecture, Dr. Pedro Alonso, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Malaria Programme, offers an overview of the progress made—as well as challenges encountered – in malaria control and towards malaria elimination over the past decade. The module contextualizes these trends in WHO’s ongoing transition from promoting a one-size-fits-all strategy to tailoring approaches according to local and regional epidemiological, environmental, and political contexts.

The Biology of Malaria

  • This module provides foundational scientific knowledge for the course, including important biological aspects of the malaria parasite, the mosquito vector, and the human host. In this module’s lecture, Professor Dyann F. Wirth begins with a brief overview of how malaria came to be understood, then goes into detail on the parasite’s life cycle, how malaria affects humans, and the existing and sought-after tools to prevent and treat malaria. Finally, Professor Wirth reviews global endeavors to eradicate malaria.

The Biology of Malaria

  • This module provides foundational scientific knowledge for the course, including important biological aspects of the malaria parasite, the mosquito vector, and the human host. In this module’s lecture, Professor Dyann F. Wirth begins with a brief overview of how malaria came to be understood, then goes into detail on the parasite’s life cycle, how malaria affects humans, and the existing and sought-after tools to prevent and treat malaria. Finally, Professor Wirth reviews global endeavors to eradicate malaria.

The Dynamics of Malaria Transmission 

  • In the fourth module, the course delves deeper into the malaria transmission cycle, including how it can be interrupted. Professor Matthias Marti examines the cycle of malaria parasite transmission between humans and mosquitoes, including mechanisms of parasite sequestration in the human body, and the life cycle of the parasite in the mosquito. The module then applies these concepts to examine the dynamics of infectiousness and transmission. Finally, natural transmission-blocking mechanisms are considered in the context of the ongoing development of vaccines against malaria.

Genomic Approaches to Malaria Elimination

  • This course module introduces learners to the contributions of the burgeoning field of genomics to understanding and controlling malaria. After introducing key genetic principles, Dr. Sarah Volkman uses data on genetics from Senegal, Panama, and Mozambique to describe how parasite populations are changing. Currently available genomic tools and methods, along with their application to inform key questions about malaria transmission, prevention, and treatment, are discussed.

Social, Cultural, Behavioral, and Environmental Determinants of Malaria

In the sixth module, the course’s focus shifts from the microscopic genes to a more global perspective. Using a systemic view of malaria, the module describes human and environmental factors that influence how malaria is manifested and how control efforts work. Professor Marcia Castro discusses various components of global ‘systems’ that enable the continued existence of malaria, and presents historical examples that exemplify the importance of these components. Professor Castro also describes the challenges and the opportunities in the struggle to eradicate malaria that these human and environmental factors create.

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