Cambodia is located in Southeast Asia and has a tropical climate and warm temperatures. Cambodia has experienced steady growth since 1999, from a fragile and undiversified economy to an important global center with rapid urbanization and migration. Historically, healthcare has been underfunded, and infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, and co-infections, such as malaria, tuberculosis (TB), avian influenza, and dengue fever, posed serious concerns. With the cycling of effective antimalarials, insecticide-treated bed nets, and an improving socioeconomic landscape, malaria cases have decreased by 75 percent in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) since 2018. Many GMS countries now target malaria elimination by 2030.
There are still many critical health concerns including dengue fever epidemics, emerging threats like SARS-CoV-2 and sand fly-transmitted leishmaniasis, and ongoing threats like influenza and tuberculosis.
The NIAID Division of Intramural Research (DIR) has collaborated with the Cambodian Ministry of Health’s National Center for Parasitology, Entomology, and Malaria Control (CNM) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia since 2005. NIAID-funded extramural and intramural research collaboration in Cambodia includes research projects focused on HIV, dengue, vector research, tuberculosis, and other emerging infectious diseases.
Milestones in NIAID collaborations include:
- Developing vaccine targets and biomarkers for mosquito-borne diseases by understanding the human immune response to mosquito saliva, a known accelerant of disease.
- Using metagenomic sequencing platforms to discover other pathogens causing disease in the Mekong. such as flea-borne rickettsial bacteria, other mosquito-borne viruses like chikungunya, and respiratory pathogens like SARS-CoV-2.
- Clinical research studies on HIV/AIDS, including projects that investigate antiretroviral therapy use and treatment response, reduction of risk behavior, co-infection with TB, and micronutrients.
- Funding used to facilitate cooperation and convening workshops in the local, regional, international level.
In 2019, the NIAID-CNM collaborative site received International Center for Excellence in Research (ICER) status owing to its recent scientific accomplishments. In 2018, NIAID and CNM launched a three-year pediatric cohort to enhance understanding of dengue in Cambodia and to accelerate the possibility of using saliva proteins in vaccine development for mosquito-borne diseases. In 2019, Jessica Manning, M.D., M. Sc., and her Cambodian colleagues received a Gates Grand Challenges grant to define the infectious pathogen landscape of Cambodia using metagenomic next generation sequencing.
Read more about the Gates Grand Challenges grant.
In March 2019, NIAID and the Cambodian Ministry of Health co-hosted 80 experts from 14 different countries at a meeting to prioritize vector research challenges and to better understand transmission and long-term control of vector-borne diseases. Experts discussed vaccine developments, vector control, and transmission eco-epidemiology, and formally issued their recommendations in the PLoS Neglected Tropical Medicine journal.
Read more about current vector research challenges in the greater Mekong subregion.