The MEI, together with a consortium of partners, is conducting a three-year research project to evaluate new bite prevention tools for high-risk populations in the Greater Mekong Subregion, with study sites in both Cambodia and Thailand. Tools under evaluation to prevent outdoor malaria transmission include spatial repellents, topical repellents, and insecticide-treated clothing. Project BITE (Bite Interruption Toward Elimination) is funded by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) through the Innovative Vector Control Consortium (IVCC) as part of their Indo Pacific Initiative. Project BITE partners include the University of Notre Dame, Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, the Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences (AFRIMS) in Thailand, Kasetsart University in Thailand, and Cambodia’s National Center for Parasitology, Entomology, and Malaria Control (CNM), among others.
Despite significant progress in the fight against malaria, 239,000 cases were reported in the Greater Mekong Subregion in 2019 with the majority of cases reported in Cambodia. Multidrug-resistant malaria remains a threat to regional elimination goals and global health security, and mobile and migrant populations including forest-goers and forest rangers remain at highest risk for malaria. Moreover, many of the malaria-transmitting mosquitoes in the region bite and rest outdoors, yet the availability of effective protection against outdoor-biting mosquitoes is severely limited. Project BITE will assess the epidemiological and entomological protective efficacy, as well as the acceptability, durability, and cost, of a curated forest pack of bite prevention tools compared to standard of care among high-risk forest ranger and forest-going populations in Cambodia, following evaluations of the same tools through semi-field studies in Thailand. Ultimately, the goal of Project BITE is to inform scale-up of effective outdoor bite prevention tools across Cambodia, the Greater Mekong Subregion, and the Asia Pacific region to support near-term malaria elimination goals.