Research projects

 

The working and teaching language is English. We always welcome motivated students, young scientists and doctoral students to join our team in Hanoi and Tübingen.

 

COVID-19 caused by SARS-CoV-2

 

Molecular Sureveillance of SARS-CoV-2 Variant of Concern (VoC), Variant under inverstigation (VUI) and variant of interest (VOI) with capacities in place for SARS-CoV-2 whole genome sequencing.

 

Early detection of severe forms of COVID-19 is absolutely essential for timely triage of patients. Well-characterized patient groups were longitudinally followed and several identified laboratory parameters were used in risk stratification to predict severe and fatal COVID-19.

 

Host genetic predisposition to life-threatening COVID-19 is now increasingly recognized and whole genome and candidate gene association studies with regard to COVID-19 susceptibility have been performed. Several common and rare variants in genes related to inflammation or immune responses that may cause increased susceptibility to severe disease have been identified.

 

Clinical trials are undertaken to assess virological efficacy of new vaccine candidates in Phase II/III trials.

 

Indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have the potential to seriously undermine the health system with an increase in the incidences of other infectious diseases. We study on the collateral impact of COVID-19 and syndemic challenges faced with other infectious diseasesprdominant in the population.

 

Oral Artesunate Therapy for Colorectal Cancer

 

Artesunate is a cheap and orally available widely used antimalarial drug that has shown to exert anticancer properties in in -vitro models. A randomised, double blind, placebo-controlled phaseII study of oral artesunate therapy for colorectal cancer is ongoing. The study aims to compare oral artesunate to placebo to treat colorectal cancer. More Information can be obtained from:  https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03093129.

 

Viral hepatitis

 

A strong research focus has always been the large field of viral hepatitis. Our particular interests are host-hepatitis virus interactions. Topics of research include distinct features of hepatitis B, hepatitis D and hepatitis E viral infections.

 

The team has shown that, hepatitis E virus and hepatitis Delta superinfection can aggravate clinical progression in hepatitis B patients and that HEV remains an underestimated burden in countries where HBV prevalence is reported to be >15% in the population. Our studies have focused on genetic epidemiology of circulating HDV/HEV genotypes in the population and we aim to understand the virulence patterns and transmission dynamics of these viral genotypes in different geographical settings.

 

Another interest of our group is on host-hepatitis virus interactions. The progression of HBV-related liver diseases is a consequence of the interaction between viral factors and host immune responses. Host immune factors play a central role in the pathogenesis of HBV infection via activation of the cytokine system that triggers the first line of defence against infections. In response to HBV infection, interferons are produced by the host, bind to cell surface receptors and activate cellular signalling pathways, in particular the JAK/STAT signalling pathway (Janus kinase / signal transducer and activator of transcription) in order to inhibit virus replication. Thus, induction of interferons is essential for the host defence against viral infections, including viral hepatitis. We have investigated on genes involved in the JAK/STAT signalling pathways and those regulate interferon responses.

 

Clostridium difficle incidence and infection rates among hospitalized patients and health-care workers

 

Clostridium difficile is one of the major nosocomial and an etiological agent involved in approx. 20% of antibiotic-associated diarrhea. An observational cohort study aims to investigate the incidence of Clostridium difficile transient, persitent infection among hospitalized patients and in health care workers at the 108 Military Central hospital. Three main objectives are envisioned. 1. A point-prevalence study aims to investigate on the incidence of CD incidence and infection rates among admitted patients and among health care workers; 2. An admission discharge study aims to understand infection control and incidence of hospital acquired CD infections; 3. A cross-sectional study investigate the incidence of CD associated diarrhea among patients.

 

Studies on cerbrospinal fluid from patients with severe neurological symptoms and fever

 

Knowledge of the clinical presentation of central nervous system (CNS) infections and the causative pathogens is crucial for appropriate diagnosis and rapid initiation of appropriate treatment to prevent severe neurological sequelae. Although a remarkable incidence of CNS infections is reported from Vietnam, little information is available on the causative pathogens. The aim is to understand the aetiology of CNS infections based on the clinical presentation of Vietnamese patients. In northern Vietnam, adults are mostly affected by bacterial CNS infections, which have a severe clinical course and worse outcomes compared to viral or tuberculous CNS infections. Clinicians should be aware of the regional occurrence of pathogens in order to initiate rapid and appropriate diagnosis and treatment.

 

Lectin complement proteins in Infectious diseases

 

Lectin complement proteins are innate immune molecules, which are activated when a pathogen invades the human host. The functional roles of four innate immune recognition elements, namely the human mannose-binding lectin (MBL), ficolin-2 (FCN2), collectin (CL-K1), mannose-binding associated serine protease-2 (MASP2) that are vital components of the complement lectin pathway were studied. The association of circulating human complement proteins (MBL, FCN2, CL-K1, and MASP2) in the human serum with susceptibility to different parasitic diseases were investigated. In addition, genetic variations of the MBL2, FCN2, COLLEC11 and MASP2 genes which are of functional importance in altering the circulating levels of the effector proteins and in modulating the immune recognition of different pathogens were studied. Low levels of the lectin proteins increase the risk during extracellular parasitic infections and high levels favours the survival of intracellular parasites, as the parasite evades complement attack. Interleukin-6 was demonstrated to modulate production of MBL and other lectins during parasitic infections. Several functional allelic variants, genotypes and reconstructed haplotypes of MBL2, FCN2, COLLEC11 and MASP2 were demonstrated to affect disease susceptibility in schistosomiasis, cutaneous and visceral leishmaniasis, Chagas disease, and malaria and in hepatitis B. These studies on the lectin complement pathway and susceptibility to various parasitic diseases and viral hepatitis B contribute to the understanding of how lectin proteins and genetic variants influence susceptibility to and the phenotypes of human infections.

 

Human coevolution with Bifidobacterium and the microbial contribution to lactose tolerance in Vietnam (VU-Bif)

 

Recent studies on the heritability and global population structure of human-associated bacteria suggest specific taxa may be important for particular metabolic functions. One such function is the ability to digest milk post-weaning. One hypothesized mechanism for an alternative tolerance phenotype is microbial processing of lactose in the small intestine, potentially by the commensal bacteria Bifidobacterium. Bifidobacterium are highly abundant in all infant guts regardless of genotype or geography, and play a critical role in infant immune system development and breastmilk metabolism. The study aims to determine the frequency of microbial lactose tolerance in Vietnam, a population with low lactase persistence genotype frequency. We aim to assess if the microbial mechanism that confers tolerance by investigating on the functional profiles of microbiomes (and Bifidobacterium genomes in particular) from both infants and adults in Vietnamese population. The discovery of a lactose tolerant phenotype derived from human associated Bifidobacterium would be the first demonstration of adaptation to a novel diet driven by the human microbiome, rather than the human genome. The study is sponsored by Department of Microbiome Sciences, Max Planck Institute- Tübingen. 

 

DAAD-PAGEL program (2019-2022)

 

A program funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) aims to establish international partnerships in the health sector with the goal of supporting sustainable development of education and training capacities. This program combines summer and winter schools both in Vietnam and Germany with a main focus on establishment of a firm parasitology reference laboratory. These educational units are accessible for physicians, biologists and medical students and comprise not only of theoretical units, but also of practical instruction in diagnostic techniques.

 

DAAD-PAGEL program (2015-2018)

 

A program funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) aims to establish international partnerships in the health sector with the goal of supporting sustainable development of education and training capacities. This program combines summer and winter schools both in Vietnam and Germany with a main focus on tropical and non-tropical infectious diseases. These educational units are accessible for physicians, biologists and medical students and comprise not only of theoretical units, but also of practical instruction in diagnostic techniques.

 

Antimicrobial resistances and sepsis

 

Surgical site infection (SSI) is common in Vietnamese post-operative patients. Hospital acquired bacterial infections after surgical interventions and antibiotic resistances are a major health threat in Vietnam. Increasing occurrence of pathogens resistant to a wide spectrum of antibiotics is alarming, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or resistance of betalactamases (ESBL)/carbapenemases enterobacteriacea. Systematic statistics on the betalactamase genotypes that cause epidemics are lacking.

 

 

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