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SCIENCE REPORT - July 19, 2001: Johns Hopkins Malaria Institute - 2001-07-19

This is the VOA Special English Science Report.

Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland has received one-hundred-million dollars to develop new medicines to prevent and treat the disease malaria. The identity of the person who gave the money to Johns Hopkins is a secret. It is the largest financial gift given to the university for one single purpose – to fight malaria. Officials say the amount of money for the research will probably increase because of assistance from the National Institutes of Health.

Alfred Sommer heads the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. He says the person who gave the money wanted it to be used to make a real difference in the world.

The money will establish the Johns Hopkins Malaria Institute. Four researchers already working at the school of public health will begin the project. Three or four more scientists will be added each year for several years. There will be at least one-hundred people involved in the project. They will include graduate students, assistant researchers and laboratory technicians.

Doctor Sommer says many experts in medicine, genetics and human populations will be working at the new Malaria Institute. Many of them will have no earlier experience studying the disease. Doctor Sommer says this is good because the institute wants to develop a new way to attack the disease. He says there will be a lot of creative thinking from people with different kinds of training.

Mosquito insects spread malaria to people by biting them. The disease attacks the liver and destroys red blood cells. The World Health Organization says the disease infects as many as five-hundred-million people every year. It kills more than one-million people each year. The W-H-O says most cases are in developing countries in very warm areas of the world.

Doctor Sommer says malaria also affects the productivity of communities. The W-H-O estimates that the production of goods and services in southern Africa would be thirty-two percent larger if malaria had been ended thirty-five years ago.

Doctor Sommer says he does not expect the Johns Hopkins Malaria Institute to completely end the disease in the next ten years. But he says the goal is to develop a vaccine or drug to prevent or treat the disease. He says this would be a huge step forward in the struggle against malaria.

This VOA Special English Science Report was written by Jill Moss.