Home' Army News : July 13th 2017 Contents July 13, 2017
Cpl Max Bree
A SINGLE mosquito buzzing around
your room might be a problem, but
spare a thought for the Army Malaria
Institute scientists dealing with hun-
dreds of the bloodsucking pests.
Through the air-locked doors of two
insectaries, a continuous breeding pro-
gram maintains five mosquito species for
use in insect control research.
Various repellents are put to the test
against these swarms, which usually
means the AMI’s staff are used as bait.
“My preference is on my stomach
so I can cover all the bites when I’ve
finished and that area seems to recover a
lot quicker,” scientific officer Capt Lisa
Her colleague Donna MacKenzie has
tried to develop a resistance to the bites.
“I prefer my arm, though you do get
desensitised to it,” she said. “I just use
some cream afterwards if it gets irri-
The department maintains a con-
tinuous breeding cycle producing a new
generation of mosquitoes every couple of
weeks. Male mosquitoes are fed with a
sugar solution, to replace the pollen they
consume in the wild. The females feed
on anaesthetised mice, staff sometimes
donate their own blood to boost colony
The mosquitoes were recently used
to test uniforms with repellent impreg-
nated into the cotton. Another experiment
revealed how repellents stopped being
effective when the perfume was removed.
They also receive requests to send
mosquitoes out, so companies can test
products. The team will also head out
field for repellent testing and see what
species of mosquitoes are biting.
“If we’re out at training area doing
human landing catches, that allows us to
Cpl Max Bree
SECURED away in an airtight
lab, scientists peer through
microscopes to keep an eye on
the changing properties of sev-
eral tropical diseases.
Lt Joanne Kizu and Dr
Wenjun Liu are two of the AMI’s
researchers watching viruses.
“We grow our viruses in
cells that have been harvested
from mosquitoes,” Lt Kizu said.
“We are currently looking at
the genetic drifts that may be
happening in these viruses.
“Does it affect the virulence
of the virus? Does it affect the
possibility it can be carried
through another vector?”
The lab work is used to sup-
port the development of vac-
cines and diagnostic technolo-
gies that will help to reduce the
threat of these diseases.
The team’s aim is to under-
stand the arboviruses.
“Viruses don’t have the
ability to replicate themselves –
they hijack your body’s machin-
ery in order replicate,” Lt Kizu
“So, we’ll look at the genetic
codes of a virus and compare
it to what has been published
They are currently research-
ing dengue epidemiology in the
Asia-Pacific region and investi-
gating the Ross River virus out-
breaks at the Shoalwater Bay
Training Area and the possibil-
ity of implementing a vaccine
see what species of mosquito the soldiers
would be exposed to and, consequently,
what mosquito-borne diseases may be
present,” Capt Rigby said.
“If we put a mosquito trap out there in
the bush, we could also be catching mos-
quitoes that have a preference for biting
birds and dogs.”
In the course of her constant work
“midwifing” mosquitos, it was a matter
of time before Capt Rigby developed
affection for the Aedes aegypti variety.
“Under the microscope it’s a really
pretty mosquito,” she said. “It’s black
and white with nice patterns and really
Ms MacKenzie said she had a prefer-
ence for the “squashed” variety of mos-
quito, but had a begrudging respect for
the Anopheles stephensi breed.
“There are a lot of memories there,”
she said. “It’s a love-hate relationship;
because they’re not native to Australia
they’re a bit different for us to have here
and they can transmit malaria really
All in the name of research
Cpl Mark Doran
malaria in Vietnam has led to a collabo-
ration between the Vietnamese People’s
Army (VPA), the US Navy and the
Governments across our region are
working to eliminate malaria by 2030,
with the AMI supporting Australia’s con-
tribution to these efforts, which includes
activities as part of the Asia-Pacific
Leaders’ Malaria Alliance.
Malaria was responsible for 212 mil-
lion cases and 429,000 deaths worldwide
in 2015. About 90 per cent of the deaths
were in Africa, with 77 per cent among
children under five.
The Army’s experience of malaria
during WWI helped shape Australian
knowledge of the disease and helped pre-
pare the medical corps for its struggles
against the disease during WWII.
The danger of malaria was revealed
in its fullest extent in late 1942, when
Australian forces were defending Milne
Bay in New Guinea.
In one week alone, more than 1000
soldiers of a 12,000 strong contingent
were admitted to hospital with the
During WWII, the Malayan
Emergency, the Vietnam War and peace-
keeping missions in Timor-Leste, the
Australian military experienced malaria
causalities that affected its operational
Today, the ADF uses the artemisinin-
combination therapy (ACT) marketed
as Coartem for the treatment of malaria,
which is a product used by medical prac-
Head of the Department of Drug
Evaluation Lt-Col Mike Edstein, of the
Multinational cooperation in eradication effort
Capt Lisa Rigby,
Lt Joanne Kizu,
left, and Wenjun
research at the
Unlocking the genetic codes
AMI, said of utmost concern was ACT-
resistance, which was emerging and
spreading in South-East Asia.
“While this is a major public health
concern, it’s also a concern of military
importance,” he said.
“The AMI exists to provide advice to
the ADF on vector-borne diseases of mili-
tary importance, such as malaria and den-
gue. It also carries out applied research to
protect and treat ADF personnel against
vector-borne infectious diseases.”
As part of this effort, the AMI is
participating in a tri-military engage-
ment with the VPA Military Medicine
Department and the US Naval Medical
Research Centre – Asia (NMRC-A).
Their role is to monitor for multidrug
drug-resistant malaria and conduct thera-
peutic efficacy studies of new ACTs.
Lt-Col Edstein said the ADF collabo-
ration with the VPA began in 2000 with
the US Navy joining the partnership in
“The US Navy sponsors the tri-mili-
tary multidrug-resistant malaria research
in Vietnam to determine where drug-
resistant parasites are located and use
intervention or vector control methods to
contain, control and ultimately eliminate
the disease,” he said.
“At the end of the day, our goal is to
assist in the eradication of the disease.”
The collaboration will also enhance
the VPA’s laboratory capacity and human
resources to monitor for antimalarial drug
Information will be shared with the
Vietnam Ministry of Health and other
malaria programs to study the flow of
drug resistance in South-East Asia and
the need to implement containment
Lt-Col Edstein said more assistance
was provided to the VPA by providing
training for VPA’s Military Institute of
Preventive Medicine (MIPM) officers at
the AMI in Brisbane.
“Our eight-week training program
is designed to enhance the Vietnamese
capability in laboratory evaluation in the
molecular analysis of malaria parasites to
support drug studies and to determine the
prevalence of malaria for future eradica-
tion of the disease,” he said.
“We hosted two VPA officers for a
course in February and we will run anoth-
er course later this year for two more.”
Malaria elimination and eradication
efforts in South-East Asia are being driv-
en by ministries of health in endemic
countries and, recently, the US military
obtained more funding to research multi-
drug-resistant malaria in South-East Asia.
Drug resistance has been implicat-
ed in the spread of malaria to new areas
and the re-emergence of malaria in areas
where the disease had been eradicated.
Lt-Col Edstein said it had also played
a significant role in the occurrence and
severity of epidemics in some parts of
the world, while population movement
has introduced resistant parasites to areas
previously free of drug resistance.
“The mortality rate from malaria is
lowering because we have better inter-
vention methods, such as insecticide-
treated bed nets with better drugs with a
better distribution system,” he said.
“However, malaria remains an impor-
tant public health concern and anti-malar-
ial drug resistance has emerged as one
of the greatest challenges facing malaria
The Australian Army has been collaborating Vietnamese People’s Army
(VPA), the US Navy in an effort to eradicate malaria.
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