What we do in Tick Cell Research Unit, TIDREC
Members of the Tick Unit conduct research and educational activities on neglected tropical vector-borne diseases caused by ectoparasites of humans and animals, namely ticks, fleas, chiggers and mites. Like mosquitoes, these ectoparasites are able to bite humans and animals and transmit a number of disease agents, including bacteria such as Rickettsia, Anaplasma, Ehrlichia and Borrelia. Despite being treatable with antibiotics, these ectoparasite-associated bacterial diseases are often under-diagnosed in resource-poor settings as sensitive diagnostic tests are usually costly and technically difficult to perform.
The current research activities of TIDREC’s Tick Unit include conducting field site visits at rural/underserved communities to collect ectoparasites and samples from the host animals living near them, followed by studying the disease agents in these ectoparasites and animal samples using molecular and microbiological approaches. We will investigate the diversity of these ectoparasites and the associated disease agents affecting these communities. We aim to dissect the relationship between the ectoparasite, the animal hosts, the disease agents, the environment and human activities, in order to understand how these ectoparasite-borne diseases can be transmitted to humans.
Figure 1 : Collecting, processing and identifying of possible ectoparasites that can be transmitted diseases to humans.
Kindly contact Dr Khoo at if you
1. Like to know more about our work and people
2. Would like to work together as research partners
3. Like to contribute any ideas or comments on our work for the betterment of our research the society!
Community Engagement and Knowledge Transfer
Knowledge sharing has always been one of our mission, not only within the research community, but also to the wider public.Tick Cell Research Unit conducts community engagement activities to share the latest research findings and knowledge generated from our research to the communities that are especially at risk to vector-borne diseases. Our target communities include the indigenous people of Malaysia (Orang Asli), school children, and plantation workers. Knowledge sharing is achieved by means of workshops incorporating interactive lectures and activities that educate the community about the biology of vector-borne diseases. Preventive practices, including the use of protective clothings and effective hand washing techniques, are introduced to the communities. Ultimately, we aim to improve the awareness of the public and encourage the community to take action upon themselves to prevent the spread of vector-borne diseases.
During October 2018, we have completed a community engagement and project launch workshop for our Newton-Ungku Omar Fund: Institutional Links project at an Orang Asli village in Tumbuh Hangat, Perak. Approximately 100 villages, including adults and children, participated in the workshop. UM lecturers, research officers, staff and students spent a morning with the villagers at the Makmal Infodesa, a purpose-built building in the village for encouraging the villagers to participate in educational and research activities.
Dr Zubaidah Ya’cob (TIDREC) and Dr Nurul Ashikin binti Abdullah (Institut Sains Biologi) delivered an interactive lecture describing the biology and diseases associated with black fly (Simulidae) and mosquito vectors. Dr Khoo Jing Jing (TIDREC) briefed the villagers on the goals of the research project in the villager, and delivered a lecture and a “tick check” activity with the participants to introduce the risks of ectoparasite-borne diseases and preventive practices that be taken up by the community. Mr Loong Shih Keng (TIDREC) conducted a demonstration of effective hand-washing techniques using hand soap and a fluorescent powder simulating a contamination of hands with germs. The villagers also had a taste of working with laboratory equipment by allowing them to observe real vector arthropod specimens under binocular dissecting microscopes set-up in the workshop venue. It is hoped that by the end of the workshop, the villagers will have increased appreciation of the dangers of vector-borne diseases and awareness on the simple preventive measures that can be taken to protect themselves.
Posted by Tick Cell Research Unit
Recollection of Nipah Virus Encephalitis Outbreak: 20 Years After, A Photography Exhibition
Ask any person on the streets of Malaysia about Nipah virus. Do they know of the virus? If yes, ask whether they remember the catastrophic outbreak that occurred in our motherland two decades ago. Again, if the answer is yes, ask what came to mind when Nipah virus is mentioned? I can assure you, 95-98% of the answer will be, “It’s that disease brought by mosquitoes, right?”. Wrong. Sadly, many have instilled in their minds that Nipah was a mosquito-borne virus instead of the morbid airborne disease that were rapidly infecting pigs and killing human beings.
Termed as “Malaysia’s new killer virus” by the Asia Week Magazine on 23rd April 1999, Nipah virus encephalitis claimed 40% lives of those who were infected during the Malaysian outbreak.This virus is on the World Health Organization's list of viruses that is most likely to cause a global pandemic.
The Tropical Infectious Diseases Research & Education Centre (TIDREC) along with the University of Malaya Art Gallery, the New Straits Times Press (NSTP) and the Sg. Nipah Time Tunnel Museum depicted a photography exhibition that brought visitors back to the challenging period that shook the nation two decades ago.
The 2-month long photographic exhibition reflected the incidences in various perspectives. From pictures to newspaper clippings of the yesteryears, research insights to stories from individuals involved during the dark times. In the first three weeks of opening, the gallery welcomed more than a thousand from 63 countries including the UK, the US, Sweden, Australia, Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, amongst others. The exhibition attracted visits from schools, the Centre for Foundation Studies in Science of University Malaya, a group from the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka, and a delegation led by the Minister of Colombia.
A historical memento assembled to tell stories untold, devastations overlooked and invaluable lessons to be learnt. In the light of recapturing moments and as an aide-memoire, the team hoped that the visitors were enlightened by the exhibits.
The launching ceremony was officiated by the YABhg. Toh Puan Dato' Seri Hajjah Dr Aishah Ong, the Pro- Chancellor of University Malaya
Posted by The Nipah Team
Efficacy Assessment of Commercial Mosquito Coils and Associated Pyrethroid Resistance Mechanisms in Aedes aegypti from Indonesia
As the primary vector of several human arboviral diseases worldwide, Aedes aegypti remains an unresolved public health threat for decades. The lengthy lead time in developing new control measures emphasizes the use of pyrethroids as one of the pillars of vector-borne disease control for years to come to curb disease transmissions in Indonesia. However, the first report tested on the efficacy of commercially available local pyrethroid-based mosquito coils against Indonesian Ae. aegypti populations revealed high resistance on mosquito populations from Denpasar, Mataram, Kuningan, Padang, Samarinda and Sumba Timur (< 90% mortality rate). In accordance with the WHO resistance indicators, mosquito populations from Manggarai Barat, Dompu and Pontinak were susceptible (≥ 98% mortality rate) to the active ingredients assayed. Additionally, the bioassays showed the presence of cross-resistance within the pyrethroid insecticides. Increased insecticide detoxification and target-site mutations have both been associated to resistance in Ae. aegypti. Biochemical assays examining esterases (ESTs), glutathione-S-transferases (GSTs) and mixed function oxidases (MFOs) displayed elevated detoxification enzyme activities only in MFOs, indicating the role of this enzyme in contributing to pyrethroid resistance. Molecular screening for common insecticide target-site mutations of the point mutations S989P, V1016G and F1534C in voltage-gated sodium channel (Vgsc) revealed the presence of the knockdown resistance (kdr) in both S989P and V1016G mutations at high frequencies. The co-occurrence of the S989P and V1016G mutations were also discovered. In conclusion, this study discloses the first evidence of inefficacy of mosquito coils to some Ae. aegypti populations from Indonesia, urging for a revamping of the vector control system. Metabolic-mediated resistance and target-site alterations were also proven to cause pyrethroid resistance in Indonesian Ae. aegypti, providing insights into the evolution and adaptation of Indonesian Ae. aegypti.
For more information please read the published articles at
Sampling sites displaying the distribution of kdr mutations (V1016G, S989P, and F1534C) in Ae. aegypti from Indonesia.
Contact Dr Low Van Lun for more info.
New Species of Black Fly Discovered in Southeast Asia , Simulium ngaoense sp. nov. and Simulium sazalyi sp. nov.
A new species of black fly has been discovered in Southeast Asia by a team of researchers led by by Professor Takaoka and Dr Low Van Lun from the University of Malaya in Malaysia.
The new species of black flies, Simulium ngaoense sp. nov. and Simulium sazalyi sp. nov, which belongs to the family Simuliidae, a geographically widespread nominal species of black fly in Southeast Asia.
The new species name sazalyi is in honor of Prof. Sazaly Abu Bakar, Director of Tropical Infectious Diseases Research and Education Centre (TIDREC), University of Malaya, in recognition of his great contribution in research of tropical infectious diseases.
For more information please read the published articles at
Figure 1: Frons and upper portion of face of pupae. (A) S. sazalyi sp. nov. (B) S. parahiyangum
Contact Dr Low Van Lun for more info.