PNGIMR's research targets malaria, pneumonia, filariasis, respiratory disease, sexual health, malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, TB and much more

Current Research Projects from the four units

Surveillance & Outbreaks Team

We conduct research on HIV sexually transmitted infections (STIs), sexual and reproductive health throughout PNG. Our work includes research on penile cutting and male circumcision, the social impacts of antiretroviral therapies, research among male and female sex workers and the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

We conduct multidisciplinary clinical research on HIV, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), sexual and reproductive health at 12 clinical sites in 6 provinces in PNG. Our work includes the first research on human papillomavirus (HPV) infection in PNG. This virus is responsible for the vast majority of cervical cancers in PNG and worldwide.

The HIV and STI Laboratory is the only facility in PNG that has the capacity to conduct molecular diagnosis for many sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomonas and human papillomavirus (HPV). We are interested in evaluating new diagnostic, monitoring and surveillance tools that could be used to improve STI diagnosis and clinical care for people in PNG.

We conduct research to improve the health of pregnant mothers and their newborn infants. We recently completed a study on pregnancy loss which is conducted among women who become pregnant but do not give birth to a baby. The findings from this study are expected to inform future health policy in this area.

We conduct research on health education strategies and health promotion to improve the sexual and reproductive health of people in PNG. Our work has included evaluations of the PNG-Australia Sexual Health Improvement Program (PASHIP) and the Comprehensive Condom Program.

  • Young people and pregnancy in PNG study
  • YUMI serodiscordance study: Understanding global biomedical technologies in local realities. The case of couples with mixed HIV status in PNG
  • TB project synopsis: Understanding the socio-cultural dimensions of tuberculosis in PNG
  • Law and key population study
  • Point-of-care HPV Testing for cervical cancer 

Vector Borne Disease Team

We collect and study human blood samples to diagnose malaria infections by light microscopy and investigate immune responses to blood-stage malaria parasites during infancy, childhood and pregnancy.

We study insect vectors of human disease to improve the health of Papua New Guineans and provide valuable data on tropical disease transmission. We work on projects related to the ecology, behaviour, genetics and transmission of potential mosquito vectors in PNG.

We conduct epidemiological studies and support several drug trials and immunology studies by performing very sensitive assays for the detection and typing of malaria parasites. We study the genetics of malaria parasites, antimalarial drug resistance, and human genetic factors that play a role in malaria-susceptibility and severity.

Our studies include:

  • Trials of new artemisinin combination therapies for the treatment of malaria
  • Pharmacokinetic studies of new antimalarial drugs for use in pregnancy
  • A short course, high dose primaquine treatment for liver stages of Plasmodium vivax infection
  • Drug resistance monitoring

The Information Technology (IT) and Data Management section is responsible for providing IT support to the staff and data management services for the projects that are conducted by the VBDU as well as other projects within the Madang site.

  • International Centre of Excellence in Malaria Research (ICEMR) study
  • Death to Oncosacariosis and Lymphatic Filariasis (DOLF) study
  • Primaquine drug study
  • Post-Partum malaria study
  • STRIVE PNG project
  • Magnet study
  • Trilateral malaria project
  • Kiriwina Prevalence survey
  • Therapeutic Efficacy surveillance
  • HS-RDT study
  • Lihir malaria elimination project
  • Misoprostol dose regimen study
  • Severe malaria surveillance
  • Malnutrition Risk Factors study

Infection and Immunity Team

Many important diseases in PNG are caused by bacterial pathogens, including pneumonia, diarrhoeea, typhoid fever and cholera. Our research leads to the introduction of much needed vaccines and improved diagnosis and understanding of causes of these diseases. Study participants learn about what is making them ill and what treatments are best for them.

Our experiments look at the ability of the human body to fight infections, especially the response of young babies to vaccines. Pneumonia is a major cause of death in children and older people in PNG and there is no vaccine routinely in use.

We conduct research and surveillance projects on non-sexually transmitted infections. The influenza virus is constantly changing so there are many different strains circulating globally.

We carry out studies described above. We are responsible for ensuring that communities are consulted about the study, that they agree to take part and that they are aware of what the studies involve. Our team also visit health centres and the hospital to see sick children and collect samples.

  • Aetiology-PneuCAPTIVE study
  • Infant Gut Microbiome study
  • Host determinant of severe childhood pneumococcal pneumonia
New Studies
  • EPIC study
  • IMPROVE study
  • Surveillance studies

Population Health Team

The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) has supported the PNG National Malaria Control Program’s intervention activities since 2004. The work has included free distribution of long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets (LLIN), anti-malarial medication, artemetherlumefantrine (Mala-1).

We are responsible for the overall evaluation of the outcomes and impact of the national malaria control program.. We also conduct a wide range of operational research activities designed to strengthen the national malaria control program.

The Partnership in Health project was developed with the vision that Esso Highlands Limited (EHL) and the PNGIMR will work together to develop a long-term collaborative relationship that facilitates innovation, new knowledge generation, education, training and sustainable capacity building for positively affecting health, social and economic development for PNG.

Routine surveillance in the sites provides up to date information on changes in demographic and social-economic status as well as the burden of key infectious, vector borne, diarrhoeal, sexually transmitted diseases.

PNG is currently undergoing rapid economic development. While the expected rise in living standards should result in a decrease in common infectious disease such as malaria or pneumonia, changes in diet and activity patterns are likely to result in an increase in non-communicable and lifestyle diseases such as obesity, diabetes and cancer.

Our aim is to longitudinally monitor the prevalence of NCDs and their associated risk factors in PNG. In addition, we aim to employ an inter-disciplinary research approach to inform culturally appropriate public health interventions that may mitigate the anticipated rise in NCD morbidity and mortality.

An efficient, comprehensive and effective health sytem is an essential pre-requisite to good health in any country. Unfortunately, the health system in PNG is beset with many problems, including such things as deteriorating infrastructure, an aging workforce, unreliable national health information and the difficulties inherent in providing health care to rural and remote populations.

Given these many challenges, the PNG National Health Plan (2011-2020) identifies ‘Health Systems Strengthening’ as a priority objective. The PHDU has established a Health Systems and Health Economics research section insupport of this objective. The aim of this section is to conduct intra-disciplinary research that will directly inform health policy and planning at the national level.

  • Malaria Control project
  • Trilateral Malaria Project Operational research
  • Comprehensive Health and Epidemiology Surveillance System (CHESS) project
New Studies
  • Surveillance study of movement behaviours in the early years (SUNRISE) project
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