The Rickettsia Network
Rickettsial diseases are zoonotic diseases, and research questions require consideration of host, pathogen and vector biology, which are very diverse between scrub and murine typhus.
Some obstacles encountered include:
- the diverse geographical distribution patterns of scrub typhus and murine typhus
- the impressive antigenic strain heterogeneity of O. tsutsugamushi
- the distinct differences in vector biology and transmission of scrub and murine typhus
- the difficulties related to diagnostic and laboratory studies of fastidious intracellular bacteria
In order to address these complex aspects, both clinical and environmental fieldwork needs to be closely coupled with laboratory work requiring sophisticated BSL3 laboratories.
MORU and LOMWRU have well-equipped BSL3 laboratories, which place us among the very few in the region that can undertake this research. Recently, a new study site has been established in Chiangrai north Thailand, where tropical rickettsial illnesses are very common (up to 30% of febrile illnesses requiring hospitalisation) - reports on possible drug resistance in scrub typhus render this area of high interest and relevance for all aspects of rickettsial research. The unit is located at the Prachanukroh Hospital, a collaborative MORU study site for many years, participating in a prospective causes-of-fever study and recently in the multi-center Sepsis study (SEACAIRN).
Further, we have good collaborative interactions with OUCRU, our sister unit in Vietnam (both in HCM and Hanoi) and COMRU in Siam Reap, as well as multiple studies in various study sites across the Oxford Tropical Research Network (OTN).
Rickettsiology has developed into a unique network-based body of research, covering a wide spectrum of themes and broad geographical coverage.