Gates Foundation grants funds for new malaria test

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently granted the University of South Florida nearly $5.5 million to find a new way of testing and treating malaria.

The project has some urgency since the two most common forms of the mosquito-borne disease are rapidly become resistant to existing treatments, according to TBO.com.

"We don't worry about malaria here in the United States, but it exacts a horrible toll on humans around the world," Dennis Kyle, the project’s head researcher and a professor of global health at the USF College of Public Health, said, TBO.com reports.

Kyle said that malaria infects approximately 500 million people annually in the subtropics, and that it kills one million, mostly young children and pregnant women.

USF infectious disease experts, along with Draper Laboratory, hope to use the funding to create a device that mimics the behavior of a human liver that has been infected with malaria, TBO.com reports.

"It would allow us to infect the cell, monitor its growth and assess the effectiveness of drugs," Kyle said, according to TBO.com.

Kyle believes that the key to finding a new treatment lies in attacking the parasite while it is in the liver, before it goes into the bloodstream. Malaria can remain dormant there for years before spreading through the body in waves.

"Unless we can kill those sleeping forms in the liver we can't eliminate malaria," Kyle said, TBO.com reports. "No one's been able to do this. It's not just one challenge. Each little step has a high risk of failure."

USF is one of six institutions from around the globe that has received money for this mission.