Sarawak agency, university to start rabies mitigation study

Datuk Seri Michael Manyin (third from right) receiving a document on research into rabies from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak’s deputy vice chancellor Professor Dr Wan Hashim Wan Ibrahim  July 4, 2019. — Picture by Sulok Tawie
Datuk Seri Michael Manyin (third from right) receiving a document on research into rabies from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak’s deputy vice chancellor Professor Dr Wan Hashim Wan Ibrahim July 4, 2019. — Picture by Sulok Tawie

KUCHING, July 4 — Sarawak Research and Development Council (SRDC) entered into an agreement today with Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) to conduct research on quick diagnosis of rabies in the state.

The two-year research project is aimed at providing solutions and insights on the challenges faced by hospital specialists and public health physicians in the control and prevention of human rabies in the state.

“The key challenges are a lack of on-site laboratory testing capacity in human rabies in the state’s major hospitals and the uncertainty of the origin of rabies that have been found across Sarawak since the outbreak on July 1, 2017,” Sarawak Education, Science and Technological Research Minister Datuk Seri Michael Manyin told reporters.

He said the lack of laboratory testing capacity for human rabies was unexpected but noted that Sarawak had historically been rabies-free.

“However, the absence of laboratory testing in Sarawak has now become an important limitation in the critical care of suspected human rabies cases.

“Currently, hospital doctors are dependent on the Institute of Medical Research in Kuala Lumpur and Veterinary Research Institute in Ipoh for confirmation of human rabies, which involves expensive and time-consuming transportation of samples,” he said.

Manyin said the research is aimed to develop an on-site laboratory diagnostic method that is suitable for use at major hospitals in Sarawak so that laboratory diagnostic capacity on rabies infection can be established locally.

 “It is also to investigate the genetic make-up of rabies found in Sarawak so that the origin and the way the rabies virus spread across the state may be ascertained,” he said.

He said the information could help guide public health physicians and veterinarians formulate and implement appropriate measures to control and eventually eradicate rabies from Sarawak.

SRDC is giving grant of RM500,000 to Unimas to undertake the research.

Professor Dr David Perera of the Institute of Health and Community Medicine of Unimas will lead the team, in collaboration with consultant paediatrician Dr Ooi Mong How and Dr Chua Hock Hin, both from the Sarawak General Hospital.

Since the outbreak started on July 1, 2017, 17 people in Sarawak have died after being bitten by rabid dogs.

The state government has declared 62 locations in 11 districts in the state as rabies-infected.

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