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Country's first tropical diseases branch opens at hospital in Hainan

The Second Affiliated Hospital of Hainan Medical University has launched China's first tropical diseases branch in Haikou, capital city of Hainan province.

It is expected to develop into a medical base for exchanges and cooperation with countries and regions involved in the Belt and Road Initiative, according to Wang Yi, president of the hospital.

In medical circles, tropical diseases are popularly known as "neglected tropical diseases" (NTDs). With about 40 percent of the world's population living in tropical and subtropical regions, integrated scientific research and treatment of tropical diseases are crucial, Wang said.

He said that in 2015, the United Nations set the goal of eliminating epidemics such as malaria and NTDs by 2030. However, global control of tropical diseases is facing new challenges as a result of globalization and the rapid movement of people around the world.

Some tropical diseases have become global epidemics. The outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2003, H7N9 bird flu in 2013 and the Zika virus in 2015 highlighted the importance of global tropical disease control.

"Hainan is a tropical disease-prone area," Wang said. "The opening up of Hainan has increasingly led to exchanges with subtropical and tropical countries and regions such as Southeast Asia and Africa and a greater flow of population, which are bringing more tropical diseases to the island province from the outside world.

"We have opened the tropical branch in line with the regional characteristics of Hainan. We hope the launching of the NTD section will help establish a complete system for medical treatment and prevention of tropical diseases, relevant scientific research and the training of medical specialists in Hainan."

Wang added that provincial health authorities are very likely to grant approval for the hospital's clinical section to become a tropical diseases hospital later this year.

Du Yongguo, head of the tropical branch, said the new section, with nine doctors and 46 hospital beds, will provide treatment to patients with major infectious tropical diseases including malaria, leprosy, tuberculosis, dengue fever and others. In addition, the hospital will treat common tropical diseases in Hainan due to rickettsia infections including tsutsugamushi disease, typhus, infectious diarrhea, typhoid, cholera, tetanus, rabies and more.

"The doctors will also diagnose and treat noncommunicable tropical diseases and climate-related diseases such as heat radiation, tropical ulcers, cassava and mushroom poisoning and other diseases caused by tropical plants," Du said.

He said the new clinical section opened on Monday and received more than 20 patients in its first four days of operation, with more patients expected as people are informed about the new service.

Du added that his team will also conduct basic research on important pathogens and new infectious pathogens in tropical areas, including morphology, pathogenesis, genomics and proteomics, in addition to comprehensive prevention and control of important infectious tropical diseases.

Wang said, "We will take advantage of the Hainan Medical University as a platform and make good use of its resources to promote integrated clinical and basic research work on tropical diseases."

Hainan Medical University initiated an alliance for tropical medicine in October in response to the World Health Organization's call for strengthening tropical disease prevention and research and bolstering cooperation in tropical medicine between countries and regions taking part in the BRI. A total of 103 colleges and medical, scientific research and public health institutions from 30 countries and regions have joined the nonprofit international academic exchange organization, which is based in Haikou.

Responsible editor: 刘娉
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