Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

In the past few months, the Shoklo Malaria Research Unit (SMRU) has begun a campaign to make pregnant Karen women and their husbands aware of the importance of pre-conceptual folate to prevent neural tube defects in newborns.

In the past few months, the Shoklo Malaria Research Unit (SMRU) has begun a campaign to make pregnant Karen women and their husbands aware of the importance of pre-conceptual folate to prevent neural tube defects (NTD) in newborns. NTDs are a severe problem in the Thai-Myanmar border areas served by SMRU, with 12 NTD babies per 10,000 births – nearly 10 times higher than in the USA (1.1 per 10,000) and over five times higher than a recent survey from southern Thailand (1.88 per 10,000 births).

To raise awareness among border communities, Andrew Stevens (left in top photo), a student at SMRU, has worked for the past three months with Eh Toe Toe and Beh Blue Do, public health interns with the Karen Refugee Committee Education Entity (KRCEE). Supported by a Government of Australia ASIABound short-term mobility grant, their community wide campaign has reached border-area women of childbearing age and their spouses using surveys, focus groups, community consultations and community based organisation (CBO) workshops.

Folic acid is a B-vitamin essential for proper cell growth and development of the embryo. Although essential in tissue formation, there was little awareness of its benefits and role in preventing NTDs among border area populations and local health workers, with only one quarter of SMRU health workers aware of its benefits.

Involving all parts of the community and getting local NGOs and CBOs to include pre-conceptual folate messaging in their work are essential to making the project effective and sustainable, and in getting the folic acid message to pregnant women and their husbands. 

 “The workshops with CBOs were humbling. Once participants understood the problem they were very willing to consider the best ways to disseminate the messaging to the community,” said Dr Rose McGready, SMRU Deputy Director. “The other unexpected response was from the men at outpatients who wanted to take more than one flyer for distribution. They really wanted to help get the word out on folates.”

- Text and pictures by Andrew Steven, Suphak Nosten and Rose McGready

Similar stories

Researchers call for access to Ivermectin for young children

MORU Bangkok Publication Research

Millions of children weighing less than 15kg are currently denied access to Ivermectin treatment due to insufficient safety data being available to support a change to the current label indication. The WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance Network’s new meta-analysis provides evidence that supports removing this barrier and improving treatment equity.

Evidence supports WHO recommendation for primaquine combined with ACTs to block Plasmodium falciparum transmission

MORU Bangkok Publication Research

Evidence from a new study, initiated by the Primaquine Roll Out Group and conducted at WWARN, supports the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation for use of 0.25mg/kg dose of primaquine (PQ) combined with artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACT) to block Plasmodium falciparum transmission.

Check-list recommended to improve reporting of microscopy methods and results in malaria studies

MORU Bangkok Publication Research

A study to explore the variations of how microscopy methods are reported in published malaria studies has recommended standardised procedures should be implemented for methodological consistency and comparability of clinical trial outcomes.

The COVID-19 vaccine: do we know enough to end the pandemic?

MORU Bangkok Research

Blog by Rima Shretta. Preliminary efficacy results from three vaccine candidates currently in Phase 3 trials have shown an efficacy of more than 90% against the development of symptomatic COVID-19. While these results are promising, all vaccines are in relatively early stages of testing. A comprehensive and transparent roadmap is urgently needed, to determine how limited doses of the first vaccines to be licensed will be distributed, together with which groups will initially be prioritized.

New study on the risk of Plasmodium vivax parasitaemia after Plasmodium falciparum malaria

MORU Bangkok Publication Research

A new study quantifying the high risk of Plasmodium vivax parasitaemia after treatment of Plasmodium falciparum malaria aims to identify populations in which a policy of universal radical cure, combining artemisinin-based combination therapy with a hypnozoitocidal antimalarial drug, would be most beneficial.

Clare Ling awarded honorary FRCPath

Awards & Appointments SMRU

Dr Clare Ling has been made an honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists (FRCPath). Currently running Shoklo Malaria Research Unit (SMRU) Microbiology department and supporting the unit’s molecular activities, Clare is a clinical scientist who has worked at SMRU on the Thai-Myanmar border since 2012.