Now, as the Shoklo Malaria Research Unit (SMRU) in Mae Sot, Thailand, celebrates its twentieth anniversary, Nosten, who was recently awarded a professorship by the University of Oxford, is able to reflect on the success of the unit, which is based amongst the region's refugee camps. The currently recommended malaria therapies (based on drug combinations including an artemisinin derivative) are the result of research carried out at SMRU, which is part of the Wellcome Trust's Major Overseas Programme in Thailand. Professor Nosten is amongst the top ten most-cited researchers in malaria research and has been a key player in the fight against drug-resistant strains of the parasite.
The Shoklo Malaria Research Unit, now part of -the Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University, came into being when François met Nick White, then with the Wellcome Trust's Thailand programme (now Chairman of the SE Asia Overseas Programme in Thailand and Vietnam). White was looking for a field unit to study malaria. At the time, Nosten was a medical volunteer with the international humanitarian aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières.
"The original unit was very basic," explains Professor Nosten. "We set it up in my home, with a lab on the ground floor, complete with a centrifuge and one microscope for analysis of blood samples."
In 1989 the research unit moved to Shoklo, the largest of the refugee camps on the border of Thailand and Burma, where 9,000 Karen refugees from across the border were housed. The focus of the research was to study the efficacy of malaria drug treatments in pregnant women and in children.
The unit was forced to move to its current location in Mae Sot in 1996 one year after an attack by guerrillas from the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, targeting foreign aid workers in an attempt to force the refugees to return to Burma. During the attack, Professor Nosten and his colleague Rose McGready had been forced to hide in the jungle.
Now, Professor Nosten is assisted in his work by Thai nationals from the region, including a number of local Karen and Burmese who received training by the SMRU team. In addition to studying malaria drug treatments for pregnant women, the unit has carried out crucial research into artemisinin combination therapies (ACTs) aimed at combating the rapid rise in drug-resistance. The unit has carried out the largest number of drug trials in malaria and research at the unit has been influential in changing WHO guidelines for malaria drug treatment.
"The work at Shoklo has been very successful, and together with NGOs and the Thai government, we have managed to reduce the incidence of infection by the most deadly form of malaria by over 90% in the camps and the surrounding regions," says Professor Nosten. However, he cautions, it will likely prove almost impossible to eradicate infections completely.
"At the treatment centres, we deal with a large number of migrant workers from Burma, crossing the border for work and returning to their families when they have finished," he explains. "If an infected worker crosses the border, they will bring with them the parasite, so perpetuating the cycle of transmission from humans to mosquitoes."
The reduction in the number of malaria cases has allowed the unit to focus on other health issues such as respiratory diseases. In addition, a surveillance network established in 1995 to monitor malaria infection in the camps along the border has now received funding to track the development of the avian influenza virus.
"We would like to congratulate François and his team," says Dr Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust. The Trust, along with Oxford University, has funded the SMRU since its inception. "Their work, often in difficult circumstances, has made a huge impact on the fight against malaria, not only in the region but also globally. François has shown dedication and a determination which is to be applauded."
The SMRU will be hosting a scientific seminar in Mae Sot on 28 December entitled "Twenty Years of Malaria Research: Outcomes and Perspectives" attended by internationally-renowned experts and featuring talks and debates on a variety of topics related to malaria, from epidemiology to therapeutics and from immunity to socio-economics.
Craig Brierley | alfa
Norovirus evades immune system by hiding out in rare gut cells
12.10.2017 | University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Flexible sensors can detect movement in GI tract
11.10.2017 | Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
It's possible to produce hydrogen to power fuel cells by extracting the gas from seawater, but the electricity required to do it makes the process costly. UCF...
Mercury, our smallest planetary neighbor, has very little to call an atmosphere, but it does have a strange weather pattern: morning micro-meteor showers.
Recent modeling along with previously published results from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft -- short for Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and...
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
28.09.2017 | Event News
16.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
16.10.2017 | Earth Sciences
16.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy