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Overview of the South-east Asia programme

08/01/07. By the Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust's programme in South-east Asia is carrying out research to facilitate the improvement of the diagnosis, management and prevention of important tropical diseases, particularly malaria, through a better understanding of their pathogenesis, pathophysiology, genetics and epidemiology.

The Wellcome Trust South-east Asia Programme is based in Thailand (including Laos) and Vietnam. Professor Nicholas White, a Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow, is Chairman of the Programme.

Thailand

The Wellcome Trust–Mahidol University–Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Programme was founded in 1979 as a research collaboration between the University of Oxford and the Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University, Bangkok. The main administrative office and laboratories are embedded within the Faculty, though most of the clinical studies and much of the laboratory work takes place in 'up-country' study sites including Laos.

The study sites include:

  • the Shoklo Malaria Research Unit (SMRU) in Mae Sot on the Thai-Burmese border
    Maela refugee camp on the Thai-Burmese border (SMRU clinic)
    Mae Sot Hospital (malaria and microbiological support for Shoklo)
  • the Laos collaboration based in Mahosot Hospital, Vientiane
  • Ubon Ratchatani (melioidosis and cryptococcal meningitis)
  • Udon Thani (scrub typhus and leptospirosis)
  • Chittagong Medical College in Bangladesh (severe malaria).

Research activities in Thailand focus on clinical, basic and epidemiological aspects of malaria, melioidosis, leptospirosis, rickettsial disease, typhoid, pneumococcal disease, CNS infection and fungal diseases. A major component of the Programme is the study of malaria, including: the use of new drug regimens, especially artemisinin-based therapies; the biology of resistant malaria parasites; the mechanisms of antimalarial resistance; the treatment of malaria in pregnant women; pharmacology of antimalarial drugs; investigation of fake antimalarials; and pathophysiology.

Dr Nick Day is Director of the research in Bangkok; Professor Francois Nosten is Director of the research in SMRU, Mae Sot; and Dr Paul Newton is the Director of the Laos project.

Vietnam

The Oxford University Clinical Research Unit (OUCRU) is based in the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh City, which is the referral hospital for infectious diseases for the south of the country (catchment population is 28 million people). Professor Jeremy Farrar, who is a Wellcome Trust Senior Fellow, has directed the Unit since 1996.

The research focuses on malaria, dengue, typhoid, infections of the central nervous system (viral encephalitis, pyogenic, tuberculous and fungal meningitis with and without HIV co-infection), sepsis and tetanus. Other studies are examining diphtheria, shigella and recently avian influenza, fascioliasis, and Streptococcus suis infections.

The majority of the research activities take place at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases. A dedicated Institute for Clinical Research in the grounds of the hospital, jointly funded by the Vietnamese Government and the Wellcome Trust, opened in September 2002.

There are also major clinical and epidemiological research programmes in collaborating institutions in the city and with provincial hospitals in southern Vietnam:

  • Pham Ngoc Thach TB and Lung Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City
  • Paediatric Hospital Number 1 and 2 in Ho Chi Minh City
  • the main typhoid fever collaboration is in Dong Thap and An Giang in the Mekong delta to the Southwest
  • the main field site for malaria research is close to the Cambodian border, north of Ho Chi Minh City.

Thumbnail image of doctor from South-east Asia courtesy of Mark de Fraeye.

Page of 2; 2/9/04

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