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Frank Smithuis

Myanmar Oxford Clinical Research Unit

Frank Smithuis started to work as director of Médécins sans Frontières in Myanmar in 1994. MSF in Myanmar performed over 1.5 million patient consultations annually, focussing on malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, malnutrition and sexually transmitted diseases. The malaria project tested 3.5 million patients with fever and treated over 1.5 million malaria patients. Frank started the first AIDS treatment project, enrolling 15,000 patients, and initiated the first multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis project in Myanmar.

Frank initiated a number of malaria treatment efficacy and effectiveness studies which supported a change in the treatment protocol from chloroquine and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine to artemisinin combination therapy. A study comparing artemisinin combination therapies with and without primaquine lead to the addition of primaquine for the treatment of falciparum malaria. A large cluster-randomized trial investigating the efficacy of Insecticide Treated Nets (ITN) and the biting behaviour of Anopheles mosquitoes, showed that ITN provided only limited protection against malaria. Vectors bit early, before people were in an ITN.

In 2009 he founded a new organization, Medical Action Myanmar, supporting 10 clinics, which provide general health care with special attention to malnutrition, tuberculosis and HIV. In addition they support a network of 1,800 Community Health Workers (villagers trained and supplied to diagnose and treat common diseases including malaria and TB) in the most remote communities in border areas. In 2017 approximately 700,000 consultations were performed.

In 2013 he set up Myanmar Oxford Clinical Research Unit (MOCRU). The research is aimed to provide practical answers to questions clinicians have during their day to day management of patients.

Frank published over 40 scientific articles on malaria and HIV and in 2006 he obtained a PhD for malaria research under supervision of Oxford professor Nicholas White. Frank is an associate professor of Oxford University.