April 11, 2018
In the Philippines, where leptospirosis remains a public health issue, the Leptospirosis Prevention and Control (LepCon) Laboratory along with latest research developments at the College of Public Health of the University of the Philippines in Manila – College of Public Health (UPM-CPH) offer a ray of hope.
The LepCon laboratory, established at UPM-CPH in partnership with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), aims to provide laboratory diagnostic services to suspected cases of leptospirosis in Metro Manila and other areas in the Philippines. During rainy season, the laboratory receives as many as 50 case referrals in a day.
Leptospirosis is an infection that affects both humans and animals, usually contracted through direct exposure to the urine of infected animals or through exposure from Leptospira-contaminated environment such as soil and water (World Health Organization). In the Philippines, the disease affected 2,495 individuals, majority of which were from the National Capital Region (NCR), Region VI, and Region I (2017 data from Department of Health).
"LepCon provided our undergraduate and graduate students venues to conduct research and hold trainings for laboratory technicians and other healthcare practitioners not only in the Philippines but in neighboring countries. Even after the Project ended three years ago, it continues to be sustainable because we were able to secure research grants from external institutions such as Philippine Council for Health Research and Development – Department of Science and Technology (DOST) for research activities," said Dr. Nina Gloriani, UP Manila professor of medical microbiology and program manager of LepCon.
About 30 researches on leptospirosis were published under the project from 2010 to 2018. During the LepCon project, some research associates, professors, and a graduate student were sent to collaborating institutions in Kyushu University and Chiba Institute of Science in Japan from one week to as long as three months. They were trained on different serological and molecular techniques for diagnosis of leptospirosis.
A part of the JICA SATREPS initiative or Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development, the research activities on leptospirosis were undertaken in Kyushu University and Chiba Institute of Science.
"The joint research work of Japanese and Filipino scientists through the project aims to contribute to treatment and prevention programs that can be implemented in the country," said JICA Senior Representative Ayumu Ohshima. "Our support to public health is part of our continuing cooperation with the Philippines to help overcome the vulnerability of various sectors especially the low-income families in need of quality health care services."
Since the 1980s, JICA has supported research and development in public health issues in the Philippines. Through JICA's assistance, the country established the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) to implement research programs on infectious and tropical diseases.