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Thu, 1 Jan 2015

Scholarship winner to research malaria

Scholarship winner to research malaria

Painful memories of a quinine injection to treat malaria have spurred James Cook University student Edgar Pollard to undertake a Doctor of Philosophy researching the vector-borne disease.

Mr Pollard, from the Solomon Islands, is the first recipient of a PhD scholarship funded through a partnership between the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM) and Rotarians Against Malaria (RAM) for an international student from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu or Timor Leste.

“Living in the Solomon Islands I had malaria a few times with the worst case in in 2005 when I was hospitalised for a week,” Mr Pollard said.

“I don’t remember too much as I was delirious, but the quinine shots in my backside were painful for about a month afterwards.

“In the Solomons everyone has had malaria at least once, including my mother who had it just a couple of weeks ago.

“I think it is realistic that we will one day eliminate malaria and I would like to be part of that work so my child and others will not have to deal with it.”

Mr Pollard, who has a Master of Environmental Science from the University of the South Pacific, will be supervised by Professor Tom Burkot, the Director of VectorBorne Disease Network (VecNet) and a researcher at the Cairns campus of JCU.

Professor Burkot said Mr Pollard’s research would involve extensive fieldwork in the Solomon Islands where the disease is endemic.

“Mosquito numbers are low at the moment in the Solomon Islands with the El Nino weather pattern, but will build up as the rains return,” Professor Burkot said.

“This will enable Edgar's research to take into account climatic conditions and examine why there are malaria hot spots in certain villages and parts of the islands.”

Mr Pollard said he would investigate mosquito behaviour to understand mosquito movements around villages to look at ways the malaria vector could be controlled outside of the home.

RAM immediate past National Chair Phil Dempster said the scholarship was designed to encourage students from Australia’s nearest neighbours to undertake research on vector-borne diseases.