A molecular microbiologist, Dr Janjira’s research focusses on using bacterial typing based on genome to confirm which disease is present in a patient. She aims to develop a single whole genome sequence type test using mutliple-PCR assays that can determine from a single sample of blood what bacteria or viruses are present in a patient’s blood – thereby speeding up diagnosis and potentially saving lives in resource-limited settings.

My name is Janjira Thaipadungpanit, I am the Head of Molecular Microbiology at MORU; I do bacterial typing based on genome. We do molecular diagnosis based on real time PCR. Molecular diagnosis is an important laboratory tool: we can confirm which disease people have – something that a microbiology lab or blood culture cannot tell you.

For example, rodents carry leptospira with no symptoms, but leptospira from rat urine contaminates the environment. People acquire the leptospirosis infection by contact with the contaminated environment or by direct contact with infected animals. People at risk of leptospirosis – or melioidosis – are farmers who work daily in rice paddy fields, or fish in a pond. Leptospirosis can lead to multiple organ failure, and in a quarter of cases leads to death.

We have many infections or diseases in this region, and normally we have to do nine PCR assays per patient sample. We don’t get enough blood to get all the DNA to cover all the tests that we need to do. We need to develop a test that can do mutliple-PCR that can diagnose more than one test at the same time to save time and to save the DNA or blood from patients. If we could develop a single diagnostic test based on whole genome sequence, a test that uses one sample of blood to diagnose for every virus or bacteria, that would be better. This is the challenge, and we would like to develop that.

Q: What is it like working with international scientists, people from other cultures?

Janjira Thaipadungpanit: I am really happy that I have the opportunity to work here at MORU. Scientists here have time to sit and talk to juniors. When we have questions – what do you think? – then they explain, they listen to you. I think it’s a very beautiful, good environment. They don't block your brain, or say you don’t think. That is what I love about MORU and all the people here.

Q: How do you feel when your research has an impact on patients?

JT: I feel that what I did is very useful. My research is useful right now for the Thai people. But when it is cited in another country, then it means that it is useful to another country’s people as well. Then, for me, I think, I will be a super girl, and that I helped humanity.

This interview was recorded in February 2017

Janjira Thaipadungpanit


Head of Molecular Microbiology at MORU, Dr Janjira Thaipadungpanit’s research interests include the molecular epidemiology of leptospirosis and melioidosis using multilocus sequence typing or genome data and molecular diagnosis to identify the causes of acute febrile illness and sepsis in patients.

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