11:00-11:30 Malaria: How Close are we to Elimination?

Presenter: Dr Bianca Brider
Presenter: Dr Taneshka Kruger

Dr Bianca Verlinden

Dr Bianca Brider is a young malaria researcher at the University of Pretoria Institute for Sustainable Malaria Control. She is passionate about curing malaria and her PhD research resulted in the discovery of novel antimalarial compounds that limit resistance development. Her research papers have been sited 85 times, reviewed in 2 books and presented at 14 international conferences. In 2018, she was nominated by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) as one of six outstanding, ambassadors to represent South Africa at the 68th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau, Germany. In 2016, she was chosen by the National Research Foundation of South Africa as one of two excellent, young researchers to represent South Africa at the 8th HOPE meeting with Nobel Laureates in Japan. At the HOPE meeting she was selected for the prestigious HOPE Award for research excellence from among 109 young scientists. In 2016, she was also chosen as one of the Top 100 Future Leaders of South Africa as part of the GradStar Awards. Bianca has received 5 international travel awards relating to her research and bioentrepreneurship endeavours from institutions such as Harvard University and the Wellcome trust. She is also an enthusiastic scientific communicator and enjoys delivering civic engagement talks to discovery centres and high schools.

Dr Taneshka Kruger

Dr Kruger is a senior research officer in the School of Health Systems and Public Health in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. She has a PhD in Aquatic Health from the University of Johannesburg. She coordinated a research project focusing on the health of mothers and babies in the insecticide-sprayed malaria endemic Vhembe District, Limpopo Province, South Africa. The Director of the University of Pretoria (UP ISMC) approached her to do a postdoctoral fellowship focusing on the field trial of insecticide-impregnated wall linings as a potential vector control intervention in the same area. Within the first four months of her fellowship she applied for the position of Project Manager to the UP ISMC, and four months later she was appointed (early 2013). Taneshka most often works directly with malaria-endemic communities, especially young children, with the aim to raise malaria awareness. One of her main tasks within the UP ISMC is marketing and communications. This includes maintaining the UP ISMC’s social media platforms, website, and the “Malaria Buddy” app. Besides her operational position within the Institute she also supervises postgraduate students doing malaria education and health promotion research.

Malaria remains one of Africa’s major public health challenges, where according to the World Health Organization (WHO), 80% of the 216 million malaria cases and 445 000 fatalities reported globally in 2016 occurred in sub-Saharan African countries. Malaria impacts on the socio-economic status of endemic countries, and the quality of life of communities affected by malaria is therefore intrinsically linked to the elimination of the disease. The malaria burden in Africa has been halved since the year 2000 due to WHO recommended vector control interventions, which were drastically scaled-up since 2010, along with early diagnosis and rapid treatment of the disease. However, challenges are undermining the gains reported. Control of malaria, therefore, requires novel, innovative, safer and sustainable methods and strategies – including education, awareness creation and health promotion. Trans-disciplinary collaborations, including input from affected communities should become the norm in targeting the disease. The talk will touch on malaria control challenges that are impeding the progress of the malaria elimination agenda, and will stimulate debate on the role of science, technology and innovation towards eliminating the disease. The conclusion: collaborative efforts can make a big difference towards eliminating malaria and thus contribute towards Africa’s development.