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Dr Claire Chewapreecha

Dr Claire Chewapreecha

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Claire Chewapreecha

Wellcome International Intermediate Fellow

Genetic research on melioidosis

Our works centre on the use of genomics to understand the evolution and dissemination of bacterial pathogens that cause a global burden. We have been particularly interested in melioidosis, a rapidly fatal infectious disease that endemic in many tropical regions. My Sir Henry Wellcome postdoctoral fellowship (2015-2019) facilitated my transition from UK to Thailand, my home country and an endemic area where the mortality from melioidosis is among the highest in the world (40%), and brought me closer to where the problem is.

Melioidosis is caused by the bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei (Bp). Human can acquire Bp through contact with contaminated soil or water, yet not all exposure results in disease. We are testing the hypothesise that genetic variations in Bp and host, may contribute to whether individuals would develop the disease and how severe the infection is. Building upon a previous dataset from Northeast Thailand, our team is collecting and sequencing Bp genomes and patient blood transcriptomes to identify markers that lead to poorer outcomes. Moreover, people with diabetes are more susceptible to develop melioidosis. For each Bp and host markers, we will investigate how patient diabetic status would modulate disease severity. We will construct a model predicting the likely disease outcomes. This will inform strategic vaccine design by targeting the most harmful bacteria and individuals at greatest risk.

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