Refining Surveillance for Zoonotic Respiratory Viruses in Sarawak, Malaysia (2018-2019)

Zoonotic diseases, caused by pathogens transmitted from animals to humans, account for approximately three out of five new human illnesses. In Southeast Asia, novel respiratory viruses such as avian and swine flu have caused significant outbreaks affecting human and animal populations. To understand the emergence of zoonotic diseases and prevent future pandemics, we need greater surveillance for such pathogens in areas where people and animals come into contact.

Beginning in 2017, Duke One Health team members, mentored by Professor Gregory Gray, organized and guided a Bass Connections team that built on an existing project in Sarawak, Malaysia. A diverse group of undergraduate, graduate, and medical students partnered with Sibu and Kapit hospitals and the State Health Department to test for viruses in hospital wards, open markets, swine farms, and slaughterhouses. A master’s student in Global Health from Duke Kunshan University participated in the team. The team’s research led to multiple publications. Three team members subsequently won scholarships to pursue Ph.D. degrees.

The 2018-2019 team refined the surveillance efforts for emerging respiratory viruses in Malaysia and increased Sibu Hospital’s laboratory and diagnostic capacity. This work also yielded data for future grant applications and several manuscripts.


Spring 2018 – Fall 2018  

Team Outputs 

Emily S. Bailey, Jane K. Fieldhouse, Natalie A. Alarja, David D. Chen, Maria E. Kovalik, Juliana N. Zemke, Jessica Y. Choi, Laura K. Borkenhagen, Teck-Hock Toh, Jeffrey Soon Yit Lee, Kuek-Sen Chong, Gregory C. Gray. 2020. “First sequence of influenza D virus identified in poultry farm bioaerosols in Sarawak, Malaysia,” Tropical Diseases, Travel Medicines and Vaccines 6(5).

Bioaerosol Sampling for Respiratory Viruses at the Human-Animal Interface in Sarawak, Malaysia (poster, presented at Triangle Global Health Annual Conference, Durham, NC, October 16, 2019)

Anticipating the Next Pandemic Threat at the Human-Animal Interface in Sarawak, Malaysia (poster by David Chen, Jessica Choi, Gina Kovalik, Karen Lin, Julie Zemke, presented at Bass Connections Showcase, Duke University, April 17, 2019)

Advances in Infectious Diseases: Bridging Molecular Pathogenesis, Immunity and Global Health (poster by David Chen and Gina Kovalik, presented at Duke/Duke-NUS Symposium, April 9, 2019)


David Chen


Duke One Health Students Conduct Research Studies in Sarawak

This Team in the News

Targeting Malaysia's Infectious Diseases through Research and Surveillance

Meet the Members of the 2018-19 Student Advisory Council

A Reflection on Respiratory Virus Surveillance in Sarawak, Malaysia

See earlier related team, Building Capacity for Surveillance and Diagnosis of Respiratory Viruses in Sarawak, Malaysia (2017-2018).

Bass Connections team members in Malaysia

Team Leaders

  • Jane Fieldhouse, Duke Global Health Institute
  • Gregory Gray, School of Medicine-Medicine: Infectious Diseases

/graduate Team Members

  • Jessica Choi , Global Health - MSc
  • Karen Lin, Medicine MD Fourth Year
  • Juliana Zemke, Global Health - MSc

/undergraduate Team Members

  • David Chen, Biology (BS)
  • Maria Kovalik, Biology (BS)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Kristen Coleman, Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore
  • Nathan Thielman, School of Medicine-Medicine: Infectious Diseases

/zcommunity Team Members

  • King Ching Hii, Kapit Hospital
  • Teck Hock Toh, Sibu Hospital, Malaysia