Research Themes

Infectious and Tropical Diseases

The primary function of the Infectious and Tropical Diseases Unit (ITDU) is to undertake research in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of tropical diseases of public health importance. To be of utmost relevance to the national health policy and strategy, the research efforts are directed towards the development of new diagnostic techniques as well as effective and efficient strategies for the control of infectious and/or tropical diseases. Its research efforts are disseminated through local and international publications, presented in various scientific meetings and submitted to the health policy-making bodies.  

HIV/AIDS is a major public health concern. The ITDU pioneered HIV/AIDS related activities in the country. These include prevalence and risk behavior/education/intervention studies and multidisciplinary approach to care.

Tuberculosis research program has progressed to the attainment of its objectives by the initiation of projects that could help understand, control and prevent multi-drug resistant tuberculosis. The program also aims to improve the diagnosis of pulmonary and extra pulmonary tuberculosis.

The Institute is a member of the Middle East Consortium on Infectious Disease Surveillance (MECIDS) that brings together public health leaders, academic institutions and private health care facilities in the region to improve the ability of nations to detect and respond to infectious disease threats through integrated surveillance systems and joint epidemiological and laboratory training.

The leishmaniases and trypanosomiases are diseases caused by related parasites belonging to the kinetoplastidae family. They share common biological traits, which are comparatively better known than for other parasites, and which would favor the identification of common targets. Yet, very few new drugs are on the horizon and treatment relies on old, often toxic and ineffective drugs. We are investigating ointment treatment against cutaneous leishmania.

Relapsing Tick Fever is often considered a mild disease but it can cause serious problems. We are currently studying the prevalence of the disease and the geographical distribution of infected ticks and mammals to better understand the regional epidemiology and consequently the population at risk. 

The Pathogen Molecular Biology Unit focuses on the molecular biology and genetics of pathogens and their hosts in the context of improving the understanding and control of infectious diseases.

Infectious disease agents studied within the unit include:

Mycobacterium tuberculosis; Leishmania species; trypanosma species, and Borrelia. Aspects of pathogen biology of interest include: (i) deciphering the genetic diversity of selected disease agents in natural populations and determining its epidemiological impact, (ii) exploiting parasitic, bacterial and viral pathogens as model biological systems and (iii) developing practical applications including improved diagnostic tests and the identification and characterization of vaccine candidates and drug targets.

The Disease Control and Vector Biology Unit is a multidisciplinary unit focuses on the control of diseases that are insect-borne, water-borne or associated with poor hygiene. Our work covers an extensive area of research on Leishmania control including vector control, insecticide-treated nets (ITN), intermittent preventive treatment (IPT), drug treatment regimes, epidemic early warning systems and socio-anthropological issues in Leishmanai control.

We have been evaluating a number of alternative insecticides to supplement the pyrethroids, new candidate long lasting nets, and long lasting cost-effective spray formulations that have the potential to replace DDT.

Leishmaniasis research in the Unit currently has four main focuses: (1) developing risk maps for zoonotic visceral leishmaniasis (ZVL), and identifying the environmental factors responsible for the observed distributions (throughout the Mediterranean region); (2) measuring the impact of insecticide impregnated dog collars on ZVL incidence and investigating factors that determine the extent of this impact (in West-Bank); (3) measuring the effectiveness of long-lasting insecticide treated bednets on the incidence of anthroponotic visceral leishmaniasis; and (4) measuring the extent and distribution of antimonial drug resistance amongst Leishmania tropica strains, responsible for anthroponotic cutaneous leishmaniasis.

Unit staff continues to carry out advisory work for international, national and non-governmental organizations, on a wide range of health-related issues particularly in environmental health, water, sanitation and disease control.

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