Infections such as dengue and Japanese encephalitis are important problems in Laos but confirmed data are lacking, particularly from outside the capital Vientiane. Rapid diagnostic tests that can be kept at tropical room temperature help better diagnosis and treatment, and also inform policy to implement vaccination programmes.
Scrub typhus is an infection caused by Orientia tsutsugamushi, a bacteria transmitted by the bite of an infected chigger mite. Characterised by a variety of symptoms and a high mortality rate, scrub typhus is an underfunded, neglected tropical disease not even listed by the WHO. Better diagnostic tests and optimised treatments are being developed since no vaccine is currently available.
Genomics is the study of the complete DNA sequence, for example of a particular parasite, allowing us to analyse its evolution and the impact of human interventions. Alongside clinical date, we use genomics to identify mutations that are markers for drug resistance. Mapping out drug resistance then helps inform elimination programmes.
Anti-malaria drug resistance is spreading throughout Southeast Asia and we need to find new treatments. Our researchers at MORU use a combination of artemisinin and two partner drugs instead of one. If confirmed safe and tolerable, triple artemisinin combination therapies might be a good option to treat multi-drug resistant malaria, as well as slow down the emergence and spread of anti-malarial resistance.
In the falciparum malaria parasite cycle, the gametocyte stages are responsible for the transmission from person to mosquito, then to other persons. A better understanding of how gametocytes respond to malaria treatments would help us block transmission and ultimately eliminate malaria.
Although malaria is decreasing in Myanmar, resistance to anti-malarials is on the rise in the region and the focus is now to treat people early, particularly in remote communities. MOCRU has set up a network of community health workers, trained and supplied with diagnostics, bednets and treatments, to help improve access to healthcare as well as produce the evidence to encourage policy changes.
Malaria is the most important parasitic infection to still affect humans, and a safe use of antimalarial drugs is paramount. The current explosion of clinical data is causing a jungle of data; making sense of all this data will greatly help us in our fight to eliminate malaria.
Multidrug resistant bacteria are a major problem in Southeast Asia, particularly for infections acquired in hospitals. Patients data and bacteria sequence allow the reconstruction of transmission networks. Using these date, we can also build simulations to investigate the impact of possible interventions, which then inform future clinical trials.
Although malaria has greatly declined in Southeast Asia this century, treating clinical cases won’t be sufficient to eliminate it from the region. Mass drug administration allows to eliminate parasites from asymptomatic carriers, and careful engagement with whole communities is key.
Prescription of antibiotics at the point of care is very high in Southeast Asia. Simple tests can help health workers determine which patients actually need antibiotics, but we need to ensure that the benefits and advantages are clearly explained. In the long term, those tests could represent a sustainable alternative to the massive prescription of antibiotics in developing countries.
Primaquine can be used both to treat vivax malaria and to prevent the transmission of falciparum malaria from human to mosquito. A shorter and age-based primaquine regimen would reduce the burden of vivax malaria. It would also allow primaquine to be used more widely to block the transmission of falciparum malaria.
Primaquine is a drug used to eliminate vivax malaria from the liver and prevent relapses. However, it causes anaemia in patients with G6PD deficiency. A new, slightly longer regimen with increasing doses of primaquine could allow to safely treat all patients with vivax malaria.
Multidrug resistant P. falciparum malaria is now established in parts of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, causing high treatment failure rates for artemisinin combination therapies, the main falciparum malaria medicines. A further spread from Myanmar to India then sub-Saharan Africa would be a global public health disaster. TME seeks the best ways to eliminate drug-resistant malaria, using both technical solutions and novel ways that engage entire communities.
A molecular microbiologist, Dr Janjira’s research focusses on using bacterial typing based on genome to confirm which disease is present in a patient. She aims to develop a single whole genome sequence type test using mutliple-PCR assays that can determine from a single sample of blood what bacteria or viruses are present in a patient’s blood – thereby speeding up diagnosis and potentially saving lives in resource-limited settings.
Having a background in malaria physiology and biochemistry, Markus Winterberg’s research focus is on the interaction between host, pathogen and drug, the metabolism of antimalarial drugs and discovering biomarkers for tropical diseases. Markus aims to use these biomarkers to develop non-invasive, field-based rapid diagnostic tests for tropical diseases that quickly identify pathogens, thereby improving diagnostics and the treatment of patients.
To prevent relapse or reinfection, melioidosis requires a specific and prolonged treatment. Melioidosis is endemic at least 45 countries, but greatly under-reported, with a microbiological culture required to confirm diagnosis. This can take 2-7 days. In Thailand, up to 40 percent of hospital admitted melioidosis patients die. Premjit works with MORU researchers who have produced a rapid diagnostic test that aims to improve both diagnosis and public awareness of melioidosis.
Laos is seing a growing number of melioidosis, a bacterial infection caused by a bacterium that lived in the environment. Meliolidosis is a disease greatly under-recognised and treatment is specific, making it a major threat to farmers in developing countries. A better understanding of the prevalence of this infection and how it spreads allows us to better target prevention and treatment.
Poor quality medicines are a serious threat to our health. Falsified medicines and substandards medicines are a problem for all countries, but particularly for low and middle income countries where we see, for example, a large epidemic of fake anti-malarial drugs. Globally, better medicine regulatory authorities will help improve the quality of our medicines.
Antibiotic resistance is one of today's major global health problems. Mathematical models help us answer what if questions and evaluate the impact of specific interventions such as hands hygiene on the spread of bacterial drug resistance. Effective solutions are then translated into policy changes or changes in practice at national or international level.
Melioidosis is endemic in at least 45 countries, but greatly under-reported. Up to 50% of cases seen in hospital die. Our Researchers at MORU have produced a rapid diagnostic test that aims to improve both diagnosis and public awareness. Better coordination between researchers and policy makers is needed to face upcoming emerging infectious diseases.