Preventing the spread of infectious diseases

Tracking and identifying new outbreaks of arboviruses – insect-spread infectious diseases – is an increasingly important global task. There is growing evidence that climate change is contributing new infectious disease strains and the expansion of tropical diseases into mainland Europe.

A team of researchers from the UK and Indonesia have used a new test called MinION, developed by Oxford Nanopore Technologies (ONT), to identify and sequence the genomes of 90 isolates of dengue virus and 30 isolates of the chikungunya virus in Indonesia.

Compared to conventional tests which are time consuming, require well preserved samples and expensive equipment, MinION is simple, quick and inexpensive. The test is accessible to those working in low-to-middle income countries and suitable for use in rapid, on-site testing in the event of a major outbreak.

The data collected by the team will be essential to monitor the spread of disease and provide guidance on the choice of potential vaccines. The research is relevant to other countries in the region, as well as to the UK so it can prepare for the possibility of these pathogens reaching the UK in the future.

The platform has been set up at the Eijkman Institute in Jakarta and staff members have been trained in how to prepare samples and analyse the data, enabling the institute to perform sequencing studies in the future. It will also support the Eijkman Institute’s capacity to do genome research, to advance our understanding of the biology of humans and pathogens to improve human health.

"With the limited arbovirus surveillance research in Indonesia, funding from Newton Fund for UK-Indonesia collaborative research has really helped us in understanding the arboviral disease dynamics in Indonesia." 

Dr Tedjo Sasmono, Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology

The project was shortlisted for the Newton Prize 2019 in Indonesia.

Transmission dynamics and molecular epidemiology of arboviruses in Indonesia

Project leads: Professor Simon Frost, University of Cambridge, UK and Dr Tedjo Sasmono, Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology, Indonesia

Delivery partners: Medical Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation, Indonesian Science Fund (DIPI) and Indonesian Endowment Fund for Education (LPDP)

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