GenMoz (P. falciparum Genomics in Mozambique), a project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has kicked off in Mozambique. The project, presented on March 22, will be led by the Manhiça Health Research Center (CISM, Mozambique) in collaboration with the country’s National Malaria Control Program, the Malaria Consortium, the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal, Spain), the University of California San Francisco (USA), and the Institute for Disease Modelling (USA).
“Molecular surveillance of the malaria parasite (P. falciparum) provides valuable data that complement traditional surveillance information and can help guide effective interventions,” explains Alfredo Mayor, ISGlobal researcher and principal investigator of the project. “For example, it can tell us whether there are strains circulating that may escape diagnosis or resist treatment. It can also tell us, in areas with very low transmission, whether the few cases we are seeing are imported or not,” he adds.
During the next 3 years, the project will set up a functional malaria molecular surveillance system that generates reliable and reproducible genomic data over time for guiding decisions at three different levels:
1) Choose appropriate malaria diagnostics and treatment through the detection of molecular markers of drug resistance and the detection of deletions that may affect rapid diagnostic tests.
2) Characterize transmission sources through the genetic classification of cases (imported/introduced or indigenous) to target interventions for malaria elimination in low transmission settings.
3) Select intervention mixes with optimal effectiveness to maximize burden reduction in moderate-to-high transmission areas.
The project proposes a participatory approach engaging all parts of the health system to promote a culture of genetic data use and increase the public health impact. “This investment will promote capacities at the CISM to produce genetic data, and at the National Malaria Control Program to strategically use these data for decision making,” says Francisco Saute, CISM Scientific Director.
The project is expected to foster malaria elimination in the south (where disease transmission is low) and reduce its burden in the north of Mozambique (where transmission is moderate to high). “By showing the advantages and complementarities of this kind of surveillance, we hope to raise awareness of the potential of genomic science in guiding actions towards malaria control and elimination,” says Mayor.