Picturing health: dengue in Vietnam

Earlier this year, our honorary Photographer in Residence Pearl Gan conducted a project focusing on dengue. In that project, she took photos of dengue patients and health care workers at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.  She also took photos of dengue patients in their homes and at research sites in the city. This project was funded by the Wellcome Trust, and this week selected photos from that project have been published in The Lancet as a photo story. The Lancet article is available as a free, open-access download.

Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral disease that has a huge public health impact, with an estimated 390 million dengue virus infections worldwide each year, of which about a quarter are symptomatic. There are no effective therapies for dengue, and management relies on optimal supportive care.

These photographs highlight the impact of dengue on patients in Vietnam and aspects of the work of the Dengue Research Group at OUCRU. Dr Sophie Yacoub leads the group and a translational programme of clinical research focusing on pathogenesis studies, clinical trials of new therapeutics, and innovative technology centered on non-invasive monitoring systems with the aim of improving the management and clinical outcomes of patients with dengue. The group also works on mosquito-viral transmission dynamics to facilitate strategies for disease prevention. This work builds on 25 years of dengue research at OUCRU and the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, much of which has been funded by the Wellcome Trust. Dr Sophie Yacoub said:

“Dengue continues to cause a large public health burden in Vietnam, with more than 50,000 cases reported in Ho Chi Minh City this year, and 10,000 admissions to the Hospital for Tropical Diseases (HTD). We hope this photo series will raise awareness of this disease and the work of the medical teams and researchers at HTD and the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, Ho Chi Minh City.”

The published collection of images highlights several aspects of OUCRU’s work on dengue control and prevention, including: investigating the capacity of Wolbachia (a common, naturally occurring insect bacteria) to block dengue virus infection and the susceptibility of mosquitoes to the virus under various environmental conditions; pop-up mosquito surveillance systems that are used in collaboration with local Vietnamese health authorities, and various aspects of clinical treatment at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases.

Dengue is considered an emerging disease, and like other mosquito-borne diseases it is associated with poverty.  As we see more of the effects of climate change in increased urbanization, dengue will continue to expand around the world; highlighting the need for effective vaccine development and mosquito control measures.

Photographer Pearl Gan said:

“I am very honoured to be part of this OUCRU project to highlight the dengue research work of Dr Sophie Yacoub.  I am aware that severe dengue infections still occur every day around us. However, seeing first-hand the devastation to the patients and their families; the courage of those suffering from dengue; and the dedicated efforts of the medical community to tackle these problems; had a tremendous impact on me.

I hope that my photos communicate the message that dengue remains an important mosquito-borne disease which brings suffering and has a devastating impact on everyday people around us.”