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Established in 2016, MORU Epidemiology has grown to over 30 people based in 10 countries. The Department published 43 peer-reviewed research papers since its founding. In 2018, Epidemiology supervised and trained 2 DPhil, 5 PhD and 1 MSc students.

Thai_gisnet © 2019 MORU
Attendees to the 3rd meetup of Thai GIS Net, a MORU Epidemiology organised network of academia, industry and government with an interest in geographical information systems (GIS), in April 2018. The meeting focus was on the application of GIS in health

The Epidemiology Department’s research aims are to quantify the burden of malaria and other communicable diseases in South and Southeast Asia over space and time and investigate their determinants to inform planning of disease control and elimination strategies. Our recent significant achievements (in 2018) include:

Malaria field studies | Malaria secondary data analysis | Dengue | Health mapping | Environmental health

Malaria field studies

  • Developed a standardized travel survey tool for quantifying population movement in people with malaria. This is now being implemented in a range of collaborative studies across Bangladesh, India, the Greater Mekong Subregion and Kenya.
  • Completed analysis of over 7,000 travel surveys from people with malaria.
  • Developed an End-to-End data pipeline and interactive online application for Ministries of Health to explore pre-publication research data generated by MORU epidemiological field studies on travel and malaria.
  • Completed analysis of demographic and travel data from 2090 people with malaria in Bangladesh and shared results and produced policy recommendations with the Bangladesh government.
  • With collaborators from Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, developed new methods to combine travel survey, cell phone and genetic data to predict sources and sinks of malaria.
  • Completed enrolment of 660 people in northeast Thailand in a case-control study of malaria risk.
  • Initiated a large case-control study of malaria risk in partnership with the National Malaria Control Programme, NAMRU2 and Vysnova in Viet Nam.
  • Supported the roll-out of smartphone-based reporting of malaria across Cambodia.
  • Provided support to the GenReMekong malaria genetics project which has collected over 9,000 dried blood spots for genetic analysis.

Malaria secondary data analysis

  • Ongoing analyses and mapping of routine malaria incidence data in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Thailand and dengue in Myanmar and Thailand in partnership with the Ministries of Health (MOHs).
  • Produced the first commune and village-level maps of malaria in Cambodia.
  • Produced a malaria outbreak detection tool which has been incorporated into the Cambodian government Malaria Information System.
  • Epidemiological analyses of the malaria situation in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) for the Asia-Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance and the previous regional Global Fund (GF) application for malaria elimination.

Dengue

  • Completed analyses of the dengue situation and factors driving spatiotemporal patterns in Thailand and Myanmar for the Ministries of Health.
  • Began a detailed analysis of dengue in Bangkok to determine patterns of spread and examine the role of environmental contributors.
  • Initiated a new project together with collaborators to trial an educational intervention against dengue in Myanmar including developing new methods to strengthen dengue surveillance.
  • Completed a systematic review of dengue diagnostics.
  • With collaborators from Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, completed an analysis of the impact of population movement on the distribution of dengue in Thailand using cell phone data.

Health mapping

  • Initiated a crowdsource mapping project GroupMappers which has identified and mapped rural communities in 4 districts in Southeast Bangladesh and locations of disease cases in Dhaka City.
  • GroupMappers data is being used by the government of Bangladesh for communicable disease surveillance and planning interventions, for example:
    • GroupMappers has mapped dengue cases and mosquito distribution across Dhaka City to produce maps of dengue risk during the 2019 epidemic followed by a drone survey of mosquito breeding sites in high risk areas.
    • GroupMappers has mapped dog distribution across Bangladesh and piloted mapping of locations of human bites to guide targeting of dog vaccination by the government rabies control programme.
  • Developed a novel, highly efficient, method to map villages by GPS. Supported by MORU Epidemiology, this method is being implemented by government health staff to map thousands of villages for communicable disease surveillance in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Thailand.
  • Developed a novel method for GPS mapping of individual malaria cases for case-based reporting and investigation. Supported by MORU Epidemiology, this is now being rolled out by the government across border areas of northeast Bangladesh.

Environmental health

  • Began a cohort study of pregnant women and infants in Thailand in collaboration with Ramathibodi Hospital to study the impact of environmental pollution on health.