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Purpose of the project

Malaria has been strongly reduced in most of the deforested rural areas in south-eastern Asia owing, primarily, to economic development and malaria control programs. Now malaria is mainly found in forests and their bordering areas. This is the situation in Vietnam and the area that we are focusing our collaborative work on. Intensive control of forest malaria has been carried out in the Khanh Hoa Province, Vietnam. In contrast to the previous belief that malaria would be eradicated by these control efforts, malaria remains a problem in rural areas today. As several reports on cases of zoonotic malaria began to emerge from south-eastern Asia countries, the coordinators of this program began to conduct preliminary research on monkey malaria, and its detection in people and mosquito vectors in Vietnam. The results suggested that environmental changes (primarily caused by destruction of primary forests), the effects of malaria control and the appearance of zoonotic parasites were responsible for this situation. However, the mechanisms and eco-epidemiology of the transmission of monkey malaria parasites from monkeys to people remains unclear. It is necessary to elucidate the conditions of malaria transmission in the forest from both ecological and epidemiological perspectives.

In this project the following areas are under investigation,

  1. The effects of changes of forest environment and surface water flow by logging and other factors on human health
  2. The behaviour of people, monkeys and mosquitoes
  3. Malaria prevalence in people, monkeys and mosquitoes
  4. The diversity of malaria parasites

Through these studies, we attempt to understand the dynamics of malaria transmission, provide basic information for malaria control that is harmonious with conservation of the natural environment and wildlife. We will also construct a strong and long lasting academic partnership between Japan and Vietnam and facilitate young researchers to expand their research ability both in the laboratory and the field.

Objectives in 2011

1. On structuring of research organization

We have been conducting collaborative studies on sylvatic and zoonotic malaria since the implementation of a joint research agreement on this topic in Aug. 9, 2009, between the Japanese side (expertise in molecular biology and immunology) and the Vietnamese (long-term experience and data base accumulation of malaria epidemiology and entomology). In order to strengthen our research activity for the understanding of malaria transmission in the forest, we called upon experts in forest ecology, anthropology, primatology, and international health to join the project.

For facilitating good relations and efficient collaborations among researchers, we will conduct the following activities:

  1. Building networks using IT to share questions, data and research methods.
  2. Holding national seminars to facilitate the project.
  3. Holding international symposia to exchange results and information.

2. On studies

We will carry out investigations on the environment, the behavioral ecology of monkeys and people, and the distribution of vectors and monkey malaria parasites. The subjects are as follows;

  1. Utilization of forest resources
  2. Breeding sites of mosquitoes
  3. Prevalence of malaria
  4. Distribution of wild monkeys
  5. Development of non-invasive methods for detecting parasites
  6. Distribution of mosquito vectors
  7. Risk assessment

3. On fostering younger researchers

Young researchers are to be given the chance to join field studies in the forest, focusing on malaria transmission dynamics , and, in Japan, applying the techniques of molecular biology, immunology, epidemiology and statistics to the data collected. They will learn how to design investigations, how to carry out these investigations, and how to implement specific techniques for field studies through working and discussing with supervisors.

Knowledge, skills and techniques relating to each Japanese researcher’s expertise will be transferred to young Vietnamese researchers during seminars and filed visits to Vietnam. Participation in research and attendance at international symposiums will be encouraged. Entering the course of Master of Tropical Medicine, Doctor of Medical Sciences and JSPS RONPAKU PROGRAM will also be encouraged.

4. On other subjects

  1. Obtaining competitive research funds for investigation of each subject.
  2. Negotiating with the National Institute of Malariology, Parasitology and Entomology, Vietnam (NIMPE) for academic agreements. We have been collaborating with NIMPE from 2000 to 2009.

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