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Founded in 1986 to work in camps for refugees from Myanmar, the Shoklo Malaria Research Unit (SMRU) provides quality health care to the marginalized populations living on both sides of the Thai-Myanmar border in the Mae Sot area, Tak Province. It does this by combining research and humanitarian services, with an emphasis on mother and child health and infectious diseases. In 2018 the Borderland Health Foundation was registered in Thailand as a legal structure attached to SMRU to further develop the non-research activities.

Thai students taking part in on of the training programmes provided by SMRU © 2019 MORU. Photographer: Gerhard Jørén

The combination of health care and research makes SMRU unique. Its research agenda is driven by the questions faced in clinical practice and whether clinical or laboratory based, SMRU studies seek to identify community needs and strengths to help populations effectively fight infectious diseases. The resulting research has global applicability and has made a global impact, generating for example much of the evidence underpinning the treatment of malaria in pregnancy and the worldwide move in 2006 to the use of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) for first line therapy for the treatment of uncomplicated falciparum malaria.

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SMRU’s ongoing clinical and laboratory work includes studies of P. falciparum and P. vivax malaria, studies in pregnant women and infants, and tuberculosis studies – particularly multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB. SMRU’s activities include malaria elimination deep inside Myanmar; maternal health; laboratory diagnosis of infectious diseases and inherited blood disorders; entomology, bioethics and community engagement.

SMRU has been led by François Nosten since its inception, and currently has 378 staff. It is headquartered in an administrative, logistical and laboratory base in Mae Sot, and has a number of clinics along the border operating outpatient, inpatient and maternity services. It also operates two TB residential clinics, and conducts extensive malaria elimination programme throughout much of Karen State (the Malaria Elimination Task Force (METF). For up to date information please visit the SMRU website

SMRU has an active student programme, with one PhD student Ms Kerryn Moore, the winner of the Excellence Award 2018, recognised for her research on SMRU data into the impact of malaria in pregnancy on birth outcomes in Asia. We regularly host University of Oxford medical students on elective and Masters in International Health and Tropical Medicine students, as well as interns and students from other universities on attachment. Importantly for its continued success, SMRU has an extensive training programme for its staff, training midwifes, obstetric ultra sonographers, health care assistants, public health students, and malaria post workers