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Brainstorming Ideas on Current and Future Research on Pneumococcal Serotype Prevalence in Malaysia

15 Dec 2022

Pneumonia is a lung infection most commonly caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae, or pneumococcus, infecting both adults and children alike. The infection is contagious and could be deadly at times, especially among children. Infections usually spread through respiratory droplets while coughing and sneezing. However, the good news is, pneumonia is a vaccine-preventable disease and vaccination is the most cost-effective way to protect the community from this pneumococcal infection.


In Malaysia, pneumococcal vaccination under the National Immunisation Programme (NIP) for children has since commenced in December 2020, comprising of 3 doses at four, six and 15 months. The pneumococcal vaccine used in the country is PCV-10, that protects against 10 serotypes of the bacteria (1, 4, 5, 6B, 7F, 9V, 14, 18C, 19F and 23F). With the implementation of PCV-10 vaccination, there is increased interest in assessing pneumococcal carriage and serotype distribution in the country.

Featuring this topic, the Institute for Research, Development and Innovation (IRDI) of the International Medical University (IMU) has successfully co-hosted a collaborative meeting with Prof Stuart Clarke from the University of Southampton (UoS) on 22 November 2022. The meeting was organised to discuss collaborative work on the project titled “Pneumococcal Serotype Prevalence in Malaysia: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Countrywide Isolate Collections before the Introduction of Conjugate Vaccine”.

The meeting gathered researchers from local institutions and universities for discussions on the project including those from University of Nottingham Malaysia, Monash University Malaysia, Universiti Malaya (UM), Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), and Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM).

Officials from the Ministry of Health (MOH) Malaysia were also in attendance, from the Institute for Medical Research (IMR), Disease Control Division and National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL).

The agenda of the meeting comprised of a series of presentations on
Pneumococcal epidemiology in Malaysia and elsewhere by Prof Stuart
Pneumococcal serotype distribution in Malaysia by Dr Habib Abdul Hakim Esa from IMR
An overview of the pneumococcal serotype prevalence in Malaysia by Mr Alex Lister (UoS)
Pneumococcal infection among children with pneumonia and otitis media in Malaysia by Dr Nurul Hanis Ramzi and Dr Nur Alia Johari from IRDI (IMU)

The meeting had been successful in brainstorming ideas on current and future research on pneumococcal serotype prevalence in Malaysia as well as yielding fruitful discussions on the ethical issues involved in pneumococcal serotype studies. We look forward to more collaborative research projects with UoS in the near future.

IMU and UoS Collaboration

The IMU and UoS have been partners in medical education and research since 2002. The two universities have engaged in various research activities, especially in the areas of infectious diseases and microbiology. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was jointly signed by both universities in 2014 with the objective of developing exchanges and cooperation in teaching and research. The opportunities for cooperation between IMU and UoS include joint supervision of postgraduate students, joint PhD programme, joint application for national and international funding (e.g. Horizon 2020 and Newton Fund), and exchange of researchers to enhance the transfer of technology.


UoS was also the first official collaborative research partner of the IMU-Advanced Microbiology Collaborative Research Laboratory (IMU-AMCRL), which was launched in 2019 to encourage cross-institutional research between the IMU and partner Universities, with specific focus in the broad area of microbiology and infectious diseases. Recently, the IRDI team (led by Prof Datuk Lokman Hakim Sulaiman) had won two MSD-funded grants totalling RM2 million on pneumococcal carriage and serotype distribution in children with pneumonia and otitis media in Malaysia during PCV implementation.

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