Indicators of health in Laos are relatively low, with life expectancy of 63 years and a high infant mortality rate of 62 per 1000 live births, whilst 74.1% of the population live on less than US$2 per day.
In 2000, MORU started a collaboration with Laos' main internal medicine hospital, Mahosot Hospital, in the capital city, Vientiane. This became the ‘Wellcome Trust-Mahosot Hospital-Oxford University Tropical Medicine Research Collaboration’ and more recently LOMWRU, or the ‘Lao Oxford Mahosot Wellcome Trust Research Unit. This work is designed to provide Lao health workers and the Lao Government with key data that will allow them to make evidence-based decisions for individual patients and for health policy.
Our principle research areas in Laos are the epidemiology and treatment of malaria, typhoid, typhus, community-acquired septicaemia, meningitis and the causes of acute febrile illness (the most common medical presentation in the country).
We also work on the epidemiology of infantile beri-beri, which is thought to be a significant contributor to the country's high infant mortality rate. There are severe but neglected problems with poor medicine quality globally, but especially for anti-infective medicines in the tropics which have important but under-recognised impact on public health. Poor quality drugs have clear importance for individual patients, in terms of death, treatment failure, prolonged sickness, excess health expenditure, and lost income. Poor quality drugs also have far reaching consequences for society, resulting in loss of confidence in efficacious medicines and health systems, and economic losses to patients, health systems, their employment, and the pharmaceutical industry. We are conducting random sampling of medicines to objectively estimate the prevalence of counterfeit and sub-standard drugs, evaluating new rapid assessment techniques for medicine quality and advocating that much more is done to improve the quality of the medicine supply. We host the coordination for the new Anti-Malarial Quality module of WWARN (www.wwarn.org) to tabulate, map, disseminate and discuss global data on the quality of antimalarial medicines.
Sunset over the Mekong River, Laos