Cambodia-Oxford Medical Research Unit (COMRU)

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The in-patient department of AHC’s Satellite Clinic in rural Sotnikum district (Photo © MORU 2014/Gerhard Jörén)

The Cambodia-Oxford Medical Research Unit (COMRU) is a major research unit of the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU) and part of the Wellcome Trust’s Thailand-Laos Major Overseas Programme (MOP).

Located at the Angkor Hospital for Children (AHC) in Siem Reap, northwest Cambodia, COMRU was established as a collaboration between MORU and AHC in 2006.

 

 

AHC is a non-profit paediatric teaching hospital and clinical training site for Cambodian doctors, medical students, nursing students and health workers that provides free, quality healthcare to children in Cambodia. An affiliated satellite clinic is located at the Sotnikum district referral hospital, about 35km southeast of Siem Reap.

Cambodia remains one of the poorest nations in South-East Asia with high rates of neonatal, infant and childhood mortality.

Research at COMRU is focused around the important causes of morbidity and mortality in Cambodian children. The unit has a well-equipped diagnostic and research microbiology laboratory onsite at AHC, including facilities for bacterial culture, molecular pathogen identification/characterisation and serological testing.

The first step in the COMRU-AHC collaboration involved equipping the microbiology laboratory at AHC and training technical staff. Results from the processing of clinical specimens have already provided insights into the leading causes of bacterial sepsis and febrile illness in this population.

Reading susceptibility
COMRU team member reading antibiotic susceptibility result (Photo © MORU 2014/Gerhard Jörén)

Current infectious disease research includes work on the diagnosis, epidemiology, and treatment of central nervous system infections; community acquired invasive bacterial infections; hospital-acquired infections; and pneumonia. We work with collaborators at OUCRU (Vietnam), the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (UK), and Oxford on bacterial genome sequencing projects. Organisms of particular interest include Klebsiella pneumoniae, Salmonella Typhi, and Streptococcus pneumoniae. A major focus of work moving forward is centred on better understanding the drivers and impact of antimicrobial resistance both in the hospital and community setting.

To date, work in the community has focussed on mapping villages and neonatal mortality in rural Sotnikum district in preparation for future community-based neonatal studies. Qualitative studies have been done, with Oxfords ETHOX centre, to gain greater understanding of the health beliefs around the newborn period and the attitudes community members have towards research.

In addition to research work, COMRU supports the clinical infection service at AHC and has co-ordinated training for one of the first clinical microbiologists in Cambodia. The unit led the development of a freely available electronic hospital antimicrobial prescribing guideline. AHC and COMRU are members of the Cambodian Ministry of Health Antimicrobial Resistance Working Group.

The unit has an active public engagement programme and has initiated a Young Persons Advisory Group and the Siem Reap Science Cafe.

Team

COMRU Team 2016
COMRU Team in May 2016. Photo courtesy of Prof. Paul Turner

The COMRU team is led by

Professor Paul Turner, Clinical Microbiologist and Director of COMRU
Dr Claudia Turner, Research Paediatrician