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Laos's first infectious disease centre has opened in the capital city Vientiane today (12 March).

The Mahosot Hospital-Wellcome Trust-University of Oxford Infectious Disease Centre is dedicated to infectious disease patient care, research and training.

The centre is funded by the UK-based Wellcome Trust, which has donated £300,000 (around US$605,000) to establish the centre.

The award stems from collaborative clinical research between the Mahosot Hospital in Laos and the United Kingdom's University of Oxford since 2000.

Paul Newton of the University of Oxford, who leads the collaboration, says the centre will "allow expansion of our work on the causes of fever, and how fevers can be accurately and inexpensively diagnosed and optimally treated."

Newton told SciDev.Net that the centre would also concentrate on "locally important and treatable diseases" on which there is insufficient information — such as typhus — the causes of encephalitis and meningitis, dengue and septicaemia.

The centre's laboratories will include facilities for cultivating highly contagious organisms such as those that cause typhus. The researchers have funds from the Wellcome Trust to carry out their work until 2010.

Newton says he hopes the centre's work will help inform the best care of individual patients, and facilitate evidence-based health policy decisions by the government and organisations in Laos.

Local scientific and medical staff will train at the centre, which could lead to the propagation of knowledge throughout the country.

Ponmek Dalaloy, Lao Minister of Health said in a press release, "We are confident that the opening of this Centre will enhance and encourage further achievements from this successful international collaboration, and will greatly contribute to advancing medical research capacity in Laos, aimed at improving the health of the Lao people and successfully eradicating poverty by the year 2020."

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