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Sun 1 Apr 2007 12:37 PM

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Gates backs UAE malaria research unit

Talks are underway to establish a malaria research center in the UAE, to be funded through a grant from the Gates Foundation.

Talks are underway to establish a malaria research center in the UAE, to be funded through a grant from the Gates Foundation.

Officials from the Ministry of Health met with representatives from the Foundation and from the Medicines from Malaria venture to finalise the remit of the center.

Thomas Brewer, the Foundation's senior programme officer for infectious diseases, said efforts would focus on developing novel, affordable treatments for malaria. "It's a malaria-specific programme," he told press. "The problem of malaria is now common in many countries."

Despite the advent of artemisinin combination therapy, he added, drug resistance is common because many poorer countries cannot afford newer treatments. "The morbidity and mortality of it is due to the fact that malaria parasites are becoming resistant to existing drugs."

The Foundation has not decided on a location for the center yet.

The UAE was declared a malaria-free country by the World Health Organisation earlier this year. Although he disease is still present in neighbouring Saudi Arabia and Iran, 90% of malaria deaths occur in Africa, mostly among young children.

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