A Northern Territory researcher has discovered the vivax strain of malaria - previously believed to be benign - is fatal.
The research shows vivax malaria strain causes up to 50,000 deaths a year in Asia.
The report's author, Ric Price from the Menzies School of Health Research, says there are 400 million vivax malaria cases every year in Asia.
"This highlights that what we thought was a benign infection (but) actually has huge implications both economically and also in terms of mortality, so this raises the agenda for people who are trying to fund and support malaria control programs that this requires a lot of attention and a lot of funding and support."
He hopes the findings will ramp up global efforts to treat and prevent the infection.
The strain is passed from human to human by mosquitoes, and up to 400 million cases are diagnosed in Asia every year.
Mr Price say reinfection of patients causes severe Malaria and death, and says that is a problem given the vivax strain is becoming more resistant to the drugs used to treat it.
"We have to think of new treatments and there are new treatments that can treat this very effectively.
"One of the problems you have with vivax is that you treat the blood stage in the blood, but it also goes to sleep in your liver and comes back months, even years, later.
"That's very difficult to treat. There are treatments but they're not very good."
He says malaria has not been a problem in Australia since the 1950s.