The Infectious Disease Research Centre deals with infectious diseases research, diagnostics, consultation and training. The focus of research of this centre is on leptospirosis, vector borne diseases namely dengue, zika and malaria, antimicrobial resistance, tuberculosis, melioidosis, brucellosis and other tropical diseases.
The centre comprised of 5 Units, namely Bacteriology Unit, Virology Unit, Entomology Unit, Parasitology Unit and Acarology unit.
The Bacteriology Unit provides diagnostic services such as diagnosis for leptospirosis, tuberculosis, pertussis, serotyping of Streptococcus pneumoniae, rickettsia (scrub, endemic, tick typhus), melioidosis, C. diphtheriae, tuberculosis and verification of antibiotic resistance. The Mycology laboratory that is functioning under this unit. The Bacteriology Unit is the National coordinating centre for National Surveillance of Antimicrobial Resistance (NSAR). The Unit is also the MOH reference centre for Leptospirosis and Brucellosis. On research aspects, research projects by this Unit focuses on Leptospirosis, Tuberculosis, Brucella, Antimicrobial Resistance, Melioidosis, Rickettsia diseases and invasive fungal infections. The Unit welcomes any collaborative research projects involving bacterial and fungal diseases.
The Virology Unit is the main unit that plays an important role during this COVID-19 pandemic. The Unit is also the reference centre for the diagnosis of COVID-19 and training centre for other laboratories for this pandemic and all other viral diseases outbreaks for the Ministry of Health (MOH), Malaysia. The Unit conducts continuous genomic surveillance for SARS-CoV2 viruses for MOH. The major research project currently conducted by the Unit is the development of inactivated virus vaccine for COVID-19. Besides research and diagnostics on COVID-19, the Unit also does diagnostics and research on dengue, Chikungunya, Zika, MERS-CoV, Influenza, hepatitis B and C, enteroviruses including EV71, Echovirus and Coxsackie viruses. The Unit is also the WHO National Laboratory for Poliovirus and WHO National Influenza Centre (NIC) as well as National Reference Laboratory for Emerging/Novel viruses. The Unit welcomes any collaborative research on viral infectious diseases.
The Entomology Unit is the Unit that focused mainly on medical entomology. It is the WHO Collaborating Centre for Ecology, Taxonomy & Control of Vectors of Malaria, Filariasis and Dengue. The Unit has vast experience in the control of vectors for dengue and Malaria. One of the major successes is the use of Wolbachia infected mosquitos for the control of dengue. This is a replacement strategy for controlling the wild Aedes aegypti. Releases are being carried out at dengue hotspots in Klang Valley and Penang. This is a collaborative project with the University of Glasgow and University of Melbourne. Other dengue vector control activities that are ongoing is the sterile mosquito technique and outdoor residual spray in collaboration with Bayer, In-2-Care Netherland, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Innovative Vector Control Consortium UK, Hospice of Lyon France, for 2 years. The Unit also pioneered the use of local fly maggots for debridement therapy. The maggot therapy is currently being applied at 100 wound care clinics in government hospitals and private clinics. The Unit is also the reference centre for forensic entomology. The Unit has a modern and the largest insectarium in this region and also equipped with arbovirus vector biosafety laboratory. The Unit welcomes any form of collaboration on medical entomology.
The Parasitology Unit provides diagnostics on parasite especially on gastrointestinal parasites. Many in-house laboratory methods were developed by the Unit and translated into routine and highly specialized diagnostic tests that caters to test demands from the Pathological Services, MOH. The main research focus is on Malaria. This includes the development of diagnosis of simian malaria (P. knowlesi, P. cynomolgi, other simian malaria with potential to infect human) by microscopy, serology and molecular methods. For malaria research, the Unit focuses on the parasite, its epidemiology and anti-malarial resistance. For drug-resistant Malaria (DRS), surveillance and monitoring of Artemisinin Resistance Genes are being conducted among Malaria Cases in Malaysia. Malaria genotyping methods are being utilized to assist malaria program managers to distinguish imported / introduced malaria versus indigenous malaria. The Unit is interested to develop collaboration in the following areas that will enhance the value of research designs and techniques mentioned above namely on validation methods for drug resistance genes, approach in malaria genotyping protocols and interpretations translatable to operational (field) malaria control activities and screening and testing methods for new candidates of antiparasitic agents.
The Acarology Unit focuses mainly on acari of medical importance and on acari related diseases/ illness such as tick-borne diseases, otoacariasis in humans, scrub typhus, scabies and dust mite allergies. Current research focus is on the detection of bacterial pathogens in ticks and chiggers. Simultaneously, the Acarology Unit is currently working on the development of point-of-care diagnostic assays which includes LAMP, Aptamer and a multiplex real time PCR assay for disease surveillance and screening of pathogenic bacteria in ticks (on-host and questing), and their animal hosts. The Unit has vast fieldwork experiences on trapping small mammals in forests, plantations, human settlements (urban, rural, remote) and recreational areas for the collection of acari and animal hosts samples (blood & tissues of interest) to molecularly detect bacterial pathogens of Spotted Fever Group Rickettsia (Rickettsia, Orientia), Borrelia, Anaplasma and Ehrlichia. The Unit also provides services for species confirmation of acari involved as pests/nuisance to humans (scabies, intra-aural ticks, multiple infestations) that are reported by public and private agencies, and also provide consultations on the control of these acari infestations. Training is provided on a regular and ad hoc basis on various topics such as on the identification of ticks and mites, and specific laboratory and field techniques used in Acarology research. The Acarology Unit actively seeks and conducts collaborative research with both local and foreign institutions.