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Intrepid researcher investigates complex disease

By Leanne Coleman

CDU PhD researcher Dr Josh Hanson is helping to better manage falciparum malaria CDU PhD researcher Dr Josh Hanson is helping to better manage falciparum malaria

Research by a Charles Darwin University PhD graduand is helping to better manage falciparum malaria, an aggressive form of the disease that claims up to 100,000 adults globally each year.

Dr Josh Hanson, who has worked in India, Bangladesh, Thailand and Mozambique, jumped at the opportunity to work with Australia’s leading centre for clinical research into malaria at the Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin.

Dr Hanson said that severe malaria was almost universally managed in the rural tropics and the case fatality rate remained unacceptably high.

“When I first looked after patients with malaria in Bangladesh I was struck by how little evidence-based advice there was for clinicians to follow when managing this complex disease,” he said.

“I wanted to optimise the supportive care of adults with severe falciparum malaria in a resource-poor setting.”

During his research, Dr Hanson investigated fluid therapy, an aspect of supportive care that has been poorly studied in adults with malaria.

“Fluid therapy is a simple, inexpensive intervention which may dramatically improve or exacerbate the patient’s clinical course,” he said.

“The area was not well studied despite being a fundamental aspect of the care of patients,” he said. “Half the adults dying from falciparum malaria will die in the first 48 hours of their hospitalisation. Our research aimed to improve the management of patients during this critical early phase of their care.”

Dr Hanson graduates during CDU’s October graduation ceremonies on Friday, October 11. His thesis was entitled: “Evaluation of Volume Status, Haemodynamics and Microcirculatory Flow in Adult Patients with Severe Falciparum Malaria”.

At the finalisation of his PhD he was awarded a four-year National Health and Medical Research Council early career fellowship and is currently working for the Menzies School of Health Research developing its clinical research in Myanmar (Burma).