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MedUni Vienna develops new, life-saving treatment concept for malaria in Bangladesh

(Vienna 22nd September 2011) A team from the Medical University of Vienna, led by Harald Noedl from the Institute of Specific Prophylaxis and Tropical Medicine, is developing a new treatment concept for complex malaria in Bangladesh. This treatment is intended to significantly cut the mortality rate and could save the lives of tens of thousands of children.

Even at the start of the 21st century, over 2,000 people die every day from malaria, a disease that is primarily associated with poverty. The majority of victims are claimed in Africa, and especially the weakest amongst them, children. In most cases, the condition can be managed without complications if it is spotted and treated in time. In cases where complications occur, however, the mortality rate continues to be extremely high.

MedUni Vienna on a quest for new treatment concepts
“Malaria is a treatable disease”, says Noedl. “But we urgently need new approaches to treatment, and we need to make these treatments accessible to patients too." A team of Austrian doctors, biologists and students has been working since 2006 on research into malaria in Bangladesh at the MARIB research centre, part of the Institute of Specific Prophylaxis and Tropical Medicine. Since this time, almost 20,000 patients have been cared for free of charge.

First pilot study at the MedUni Vienna research centre in Bangladesh
The first pilot study for a completely new treatment concept is currently getting underway in Bangladesh. It consists of a defined intravenous combination of the best malaria medications currently available and a broad-spectrum antibiotic. The advantage of this is that bacterial infections that frequently occur at the same time as malaria, or are incorrectly diagnosed as such and which are responsible for the majority of deaths, are treated at the same time. Simultaneously, this accelerates the recovery from malaria and prevents resistance.

“Another advantage of this combination is its excellent tolerance factor, especially among children", says Paul Swoboda, who has been working in Bangladesh since 2007. “Saving the lives of tens of thousands of children” If the pilot project is successful, the scientists are planning a wider, multicentre study in Africa and Asia. The preparations for this are already underway. Says Noedl: “If the concept works, and we manage to make the new combination treatment available to people, especially in Africa, over the next few years, then we could possibly save the lives of tens of thousands of children every year”.