Surveillance lab gears up to track tropical diseases

September 26th, 2008 - 12:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 26 (IANS) A new surveillance lab set up by North Carolina University will track and map tropical diseases like malaria, using state-of-the-art molecular and demographic methods. Steven R. Meshnick, epidemiology professor at the University’s School of Public Health and an expert on infectious diseases, will head the new lab.

The lab’s disease surveillance approach will become a model for similar surveillance programmes in other developing countries, hoped Meshnick. “This work will help the ‘poorest of the poor’, who bear the brunt of the burden of tropical diseases,” he added.

“Infectious diseases remain the leading cause of death and disability in developing countries,” Meshnick said. “Current maps and prevalence data on tropical diseases are usually estimates based on samples that paint a potentially inaccurate picture.”

The team’s initial work will involve analysing 9,000 dried blood spots collected in 2007 for tracking HIV infection, according to a release of North Carolina University - Chapel Hill.

The lab will work with the research and evaluation company ORC-Macro, the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium, and the Kinshasa School of Public Health in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The team includes geographer Mike Emch, associate professor at the University’s College of Arts and Sciences and molecular microbiologist Melissa Miller, assistant professor at its School of Medicine.

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