Research in Tropical Diseases
The WHO South-East Asia Region consists of 11 Member countries, and home to 26% of the global population. Communicable diseases continue to be one of the most important The Region bears a disproportionately high burden of communicable diseases, i.e. 52% of dengue, 64% of people at-risk of lymphatic filariasis, 40% of tuberculosis morbidity, 60% of visceral leishmaniasis, and 30% of the global malaria morbidity. Emerging disease like influenza continues to threaten populations of this Region.
Due to competing priorities, research has received little attention and funding, albeit the importance of operational research to guide policy and national programmes are well recognized. There is a consensus that resources need to be invested in order to generate evidence that is critical to control of communicable diseases. Gpas in knowledge need to be analyze in order to provide guidance on priority research agenda that should be addressed by national programmes as well as by researchers and academia.
The topics covered in research in tropical diseases include: avian influenza and pandemic influenza, HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, dengue, chikungunya, leprosy, visceral leishmaniasis, neglected tropical disease (i.e. lymphatic filariasis, helminthiasis, yaws, trachoma), zoonoses and laboratory methods.
Strengthening research capacity
WHO SEARO provides small grants to build research capacity in Member States. Between 2005 and 2010, 211 small research grants were provided. The Department of Communicable Diseases has funded seven proposals in 2008 and 11 proposals in 2010 from the CDS pool fund. WHO has also developed generic research protocols to study climate change impact on vector borne and diarrhoeal diseases. These protocols are being used by member countries.
New call for research grant
In 2013, TDR plans a new call for short-term grant on research capacity strengthening and knowledge management to improve disease control. The grant is targeted to nationals from low- and middle-income countries, employed by a national governmental or non-governmental organization for at least 12 months. Each application must be endorsed by the head of the home institution. Only proposals with tangible results will be considered. Applications from previous TDR grantees and from women are encouraged.
Mapping of Centres of Expertise in Tropical Diseases
In relation to the plan to develop a regional network of centres or institutes with expertise in tropical disease, the mapping of institutes have taken place in seven countries, namely: Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand. This exercise is conducted with enormous rigor and the result provides a complete information on the country capacity and very useful for furthering the steps for the regional networking. The same should be carried out in the remaining countries of the Region so that the information can be fully shared and disseminated.
Regional Meeting of Centres of Expertise in Tropical Diseases
As the Region is still struggling with huge burden of tropical diseases, this is further complicated by lack of training centres of excellence in tropical diseases. Existing institutions suffer from inadequate staffing and other shortcomings related to the quality of training programmes. Institutes involved in treatment, and research and training in tropical diseases are outdated and cannot cope with the demand. In view of a feasible solution, developing a network of centres/institutes with expertise in tropical diseases is a cost-effective option. The meeting of Centres of Expertise in Tropical Diseases was thus organized from 28 to 30 November 2011 in Faridabad, Haryana, India. The meeting brings together participants from all Member States, discussing on the definition and scope of tropical diseases and priority diseases. It was agreed that the regional network, to be called “ South-East Asia Regional Network of Centres of Expertise in Tropical Diseases”, should be set up as early as possible. The constitution by the WHO of a Regional Steering Committee with representation from countries and an in-houe Secretariat was recommended to oversee the launch of the virtual network.
Regional Steering Committee Meeting of Centres of Expertise in Tropical Diseases
Following the recommendation of Faridabad meeting in 2011, the first Regional Steering Committee Meeting for networking of Centres of Expertise in Tropical Diseases was organized in Kolkata, India, from 21-23 August 2012. The objectives were to initiate the establishment of a virtual network of centres of expertise on tropical diseases in the South East Asia Region, to facilitate exchange of information among the centres through the network, to support development of manpower through training and research, and eventually to encourage undertakings of multi-centres research.