Awarded annually, the RSTMH Emerging Leaders Award recognises significant contributions in leadership and service, including mentoring and other forms of capacity-building, to the fields of tropical medicine and global health by early-career investigators based in low and middle-income countries.
Based in Bangkok and Head of Microbiology at MORU, Direk is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Tropical Medicine at Mahidol University in Thailand and a Wellcome Trust Intermediate Fellow in Public Health and Tropical Medicine.
“I would like to thank my colleagues Susanna Dunachie and Nick Day who nominated me and presented the citation at the meeting. I very much appreciate their kindness and support,” said Direk at the Awards ceremony.
Recognised as a world expert on melioidosis, an infectious disease caused by Burkholderia pseudomallei, Direk has published more than 100 publications on melioidosis over the past decade and led a series of laboratory and clinical studies demonstrating for the first time that ingestion and inhalation are important infection routes for melioidosis in northeast Thailand.
Direk also developed the first evidence-based guidelines for the prevention of melioidosis for people living in endemic areas and recently published a landmark melioidosis paper, estimating the global burden of melioidosis, in Nature Microbiology 2016. He mapped all documented human and animal cases, and the presence of environmental B. pseudomallei, and combined this in a formal modelling to estimate the global burden of melioidosis. He estimated there to be 165,000 human melioidosis cases per year worldwide, of which 89,000 die.
A lead researcher in antimicrobial resistance in Southeast Asia, Direk’s on-going research includes antibiotic use in animals, estimating the burden of antimicrobial-resistant infections in Southeast Asia, and identifying where resources are most needed to fight effectively against antimicrobial resistance in low and middle-income countries.