Updated 20/07/23

IRD's scientific priorities in Laos are focused on the major challenges of sustainable development: ecosystems and natural resources, infectious and emerging diseases, international migration and poverty reduction.

Most often favouring an interdisciplinary perspective, these research projects rely on joint research units and various partnership instruments offered by the IRD to strengthen South-North scientific cooperation and facilitate exchanges between teams working on sustainability science at the international level.

Main research projects

Health research projects

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Infections virales d’importance médicale au Laos : UVE - Infections virales 2013-2020

  • BP-TRACK, since 2010

    Environmental control of Burkholderia pseudomallei

    Water-related diseases are a major public health problem as well as an obstacle to development in tropical countries. BP-track focuses on Burkholderia pseudomallei, an endemic environmental pathogen in soils and waters of Southeast Asia. This bacterium is responsible for melioidosis, a particularly serious disease whose mortality rate varies between 20 and  50 %. The environmental distribution of B. pseudomallei and the burden of melioidosis remain poorly understood. Knowledge about the environmental distribution of B. pseudomallei is important to our understanding of the ecology and epidemiology of B. pseudomallei and to facilitate public health interventions. BP-track has started to develop innovative approaches to understand the environmental factors that determine the occurrence and hydrological spread of the pathogen. This multi-disciplinary program involves clinicians, clinical microbiologists, hydrologists, microbial ecologists, soil scientists, microbiologists, statisticians, and specialists in remote sensing and GIS. This collaborative structure between environmental scientists and clinicians is highly conducive for the rapid transfer of results into actions in order to reduce the risk to exposed populations.

    IRD research unit involved: UMR iEES-Paris (IRD - CNRS - INRAE - Sorbonne Université - Université de Paris - Université Paris-Est Créteil)


    Find out more:

    For more information on this research project

    Contact: alain.pierret@ird.fr

  • COCLICAN (2018-2023)

    Collaborative consortium for the early detection of liver cancer

    Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the leading form of primary liver cancer, is the second leading cause of tumour death worldwide. The burden of HCC in developing countries represents a major global public health challenge for decades to come. Clinically, HCC patients have a very poor prognosis and a high five-year mortality rate if not detected early. Therefore, early detection of HCC is an essential parameter to anticipate the development of a tumour process, but affordable and discriminating diagnostic tools are lacking.

    COCLICAN proposes to address this issue by building a collaborative network of researchers and clinicians mobilised and deployed on three continents: Europe, South America and Asia.

    IRD research unit involved: UMR PHARMA-DEV (IRD - Université Toulouse III)


    Find out more:


    For more information on this research project

    Facebook COCLICAN

    Contact: eric.deharo@ird.fr

  • EleMed (2017-2021)

    Animal self-medication and human medicinal practice : from Asian elephant feeding behavior to human pharmacopeia


    • To study the interactions between animal observation and local, veterinary or human medicinal practices:
      • Making a qualitative inventory based on mahouts' knowledge of the diet of elephants in Laos, in particular the species consumed by elephants in response to a particular pathological or physiological condition
      • Highlighting the convergence of medicinal uses of plants between elephants (animal self-medication) and humans
      • Identifying ethnoveterinary practices applied to the care of elephants
      • Studying the modes of appropriation and integration of animal practices by humans in their medicinal practices
    • To present the information collected in a form that can be used by the elephant centres to better manage the health of their animals.

    IRD research unit involved: UMR PHARMA-DEV (IRD - Université Toulouse III)


    • Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Health Sciences of Laos
    • Faculty of Biology, National University of Sciences of Laos
    • Elephant Conservation Center (Laos)

    Find out more:

    For more information on this research project

    Video: "Traditional knowledge and elephant medicine in Laos" in french and in english

    Biodiversity and feeding habits of Asian elephants in Laos

    Contact: eric.deharo@ird.fr

  • One Health in South-East Asia - OHSEA

    The One Health initiative is a collaborative, multisectoral and transdisciplinary approach to human, animal and environmental health that is based on studies at local, national and global levels.

    Its aim is to understand the mechanisms of emerging and re-emerging diseases in order to prevent them.


    The objectives of the One Health in South-East Asia project are multiple:

    • To establish an environment-zoonoses inventory in South-East Asia
    • To contribute to the reinforcement of the skills of students, professionals and decision-makers in a One Health Environment approach (through training in interdisciplinarity and intersectorality)
    • To contribute to supporting or consolidating emerging One Health projects in practice
    • To develop tools for accessing data to understand and act through the One Health approach

    This project is also a first step in structuring a research community with a view to setting up actions within the framework of the global PREZODE programme launched at the One Planet Summit in January 2021.


    Find out more:

    Website One Health in South-East Asia

    Contact: eric.deharo@ird.fr

  • Measles: Reinventing the rash (2020-2025)

    Reinventing the rash: a global history of measles in the vaccine era

    Areas: Cambodia, Laos, France, Canada, United Kingdom, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Hong Kong, India

    This project aims to fill a major historiographical gap in the biography of measles, and more specifically to identify historical (political, economic, sociocultural) determinants of measles and its control across spaces and communities since the early 1960s. We seek to attend to simultaneous processes of connection, circulation, and differentiation between the global North and South, thereby also exploring how health disparities are addressed and perhaps exacerbated by biomedical knowledge, technology, and policies over time.

    More specifically in Laos this project propose to document a measles outbreak case study and intends to answer a series of questions from a medical humanities perspective including: to what extent measles has been - and still is in “competition” with other infectious and vaccine-preventable diseases when it comes to elimination and mass immunization? What accessibility issues to efficient and safe vaccines and vaccination services are at stake and how these issues have evolved in time and place?

    IRD research unit involved: TransVIHMI (IRD - Inserm - University of Montpellier - University of Yaoundé - Dakar University Cheikh Anta Diop)


    Find out more:

    For more information on this research project

    Contact: pascale.hancart-petitet@ird.fr

  • UVE - Viral infections of medical importance in Laos (2013-2020)

    Viral infections (Japanese encephalitis, dengue, acute respiration infection, gastro-enteritis, hand foot and mouth disease…) represent a major public health burden in Laos and important challenge for patient management. Medical issues are combined with diagnostic difficulties and lack in epidemiological data.

    The main focus of this program is to develop, in collaboration between UVE and LOMWRU, research by structuring our activities around the implementation of research projects on emerging viral disease and building capacity at the Microbiology Laboratory at Mahosot Hospital, Vientiane, Laos.


    Lao Oxford Mahosot Hospital Wellcome Trust Research Unit (LOMWRU)

    Emerging Viruses Unit (UVE: Aix-Marseille Université - IRD 190 - Inserm 1207 - IHU Méditerranée Infection)

    Find out more:

    For more information on this research project

    Audrey Dubot-Peres Interview 

    Contact: audrey.dubot@ird.fr


    Design and pilot an integrated, evidence-based HIV, TB, and Malaria innovative strategy (pilot program including prevention, screening, and treatment messages) for women, children, and adolescents attending MCHC-led mobile clinics and through household visits within 2 target Districts in Savanakhet (SVK) Province.

    • Develop an evidence-based strategy using cooperative engineering research methodology
    • Provide qualitative and quantitative data about HIV, TB and malaria prevention, screening and management for mother, child, and adolescents
    • Develop various innovative, multidisciplinary methods for implementing research and sharing research results to influence the development and implementation of an integrated, community-level strategy for stakeholders in HIV, TB, and malaria

    IRD research unit involved: TransVIHMI (IRD - Inserm - University of Montpellier - University of Yaoundé - Dakar University Cheikh Anta Diop)


    Find out more:

    For more information on this research project

    Websites: Valorisation of HIV research in Laos, project website, project presentation

    Contact: pascale.hancart-petitet@ird.fr

Research projects: environment and natural resources

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Projet ECOTERM : exemple de butte termitique caractérisée par une forte biodiversité végétale et animale en comparaison avec le milieu environnant (rizière) et observée au Laos et au Cambodge.

  • ECOMORE 2 WP Climat (2018-2021)

    Economic development, ecosystem modifications, and emerging infectious diseases risk evaluation

    Areas: Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Philippines

    Objectives: the ECOMORE 2 project aims to study the impact of ecosystem modifications on the health of populations under the effect of human activity (urbanisation, intensification of agricultural techniques, land use, population movements) and climate change.

    It is financed by AFD and is in line with the strong international and regional concerns raised by COP21.

    Find out more:

    For more information on this research project

    Website: ECOMORE

  • ECOTERM, since 2019

    The recent IPBES conference in Paris in April-May 2019 raised the urgency to protect biodiversity and to understand the services it provides to human well-being. The influence of biodiversity on the multi-functionality of agro-ecosystems and their resistance to vulnerability and environmental hazards (e.g., drought and pests) has received little attention worldwide and remains totally unknown in the lower Mekong basin.

    In this context, ECOTERM project aims to generate major breakthroughs in the qualification and quantification of ecosystem services provided by biodiversity hotspots, which result from termite activity (i.e., the so-called termite mounds), in paddy-fields in Laos and Cambodia.


    The aims of the project are to:

    • Qualify and quantify the ecological functions impacted by termite mounds, in terms of soil and water dynamic, C sequestration, nutrient cycling and plant resistance to environmental hazards and yield
    • Assess the use of termite mounds by farmers and the ecosystem services derived from their presences, in terms of incomes, food security and access to health
    • Contribute to the emergence of sustainable agricultural practices considering the environmental, social, cultural and economic impacts of termite mounds

    IRD research unit involved: UMR iEES-Paris, UMR IPME, UMR CEREGE, UMR PharmaDev, UMR NutriPass, UMR CERDI, UMR LISAH




    Institute of Technology of Cambodia (ITC)

    Royal University of Agriculture (RUA)


    Centre Norbert Elias

    For more information on this research project

    Contact: pascal.jouquet@ird.fr

  • ImpPost (2019-2020)

    Impact of compost on soil CO2 emissions, physical characteristics, biological diversity and plant yield

    It is well known that the soil organic matter is essential for soil health and human nutrition because it plays a role in:

    • the resistance of soil to erosion
    • soil water transfer
    • retention and release
    • soil fertility for plants
    • soil biodiversity

    All of which are vital for the many ecosystem services delivered by soil. To increase soil organic carbon (SOC), the best-documented agro-ecological practice, already adopted by many farmers around the world, is the use of compost.

    Despite the worldwide use of compost to manage soil organic matter, the impacts of compost on soil physical properties and on plant yield and, as well as the balance between soil organic carbon (SOC) storage, sequestration and CO2 release in different biophysical conditions are insufficiently documented. This insufficiency is particularly true in wet tropical soils where the biological activity is high.

    IRD research unit involved: UMR iEES-Paris (IRD - CNRS - INRAE - Sorbonne University - University of Paris - University Paris-Est Créteil)


    For more information on this research project

    Contact: Christian Hartmann

  • M-TROPICS, since 1998

    The national observation service Multiscale tropical catchments (M-TROPICS) collects and makes available to the scientific community unique temporal databases that encompass climatic, hydrological, geochemical and ecological variables for different tropical environments. M-TROPICS offers an ideal framework for environmental interdisciplinary work that addresses diverse sustainability science issues.

    In Laos, the program links land use and climate change to human health through an understanding of the impact of water and sediment fluxes on the dissemination of microbiological contaminants. Variables monitored include hydro-meteorology, land use, solid particles fluxes, surface geophysis, geochemical and microbial measurements. 

    IRD research unit involved: UMR iEES-Paris (IRD - CNRS - INRAE - Sorbonne University - University of Paris - University Paris-Est Créteil)


    Find out more:

    For more information on this research project

    Website: M-TROPICS

    Contact: emma.rochelle-newall@ird.fr

  • PPINK (2017-2022)

    Pilot project for the irrigation of Nam Kata (PPINK)

    The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Lao PDR has initiated a project aiming at the rehabilitation and extension of an irrigation system in the Boualapha district in the province of Khammouane with funding from the French Agency for Development. The Nam Kata irrigation system has stopped functioning since the weir that had been built in the 1990s across the river and supplying the irrigated area has been flushed away by floods.

    The rehabilitation project aims at securing wet season rice cultivation (affected by punctual droughts), at supporting diversification in the dry season, and at establishing Water User Groups to collectively manage the rehabilitated scheme that will cover two villages. Research activities coordinated by IRD, and implemented in close collaboration with development actors, tackle issues of “commons management”.

    One of the main objectives of the research is to identify modalities of collective action for the management of an irrigation system in a context of lack of information and uncertainty regarding water availability. The project innovatively combines hydrological analysis and participatory approaches, centered on the design of simulation tools and serious game, to support the establishment and capacity building of Water User Groups meant to manage the future irrigation system.

    IRD research unit involved: UMR G-eau (IRD - AgroParisTech - BRGM - CIRAD - INRAE - Montpellier SupAgro)


    Find out more:

    For more information on this research project

    Contact: jean-philippe.venot@ird.fr

Projects in Humanities and Social Sciences

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© IRD, Grégoire Schlemmer

Tradition et mode de vie : continuités et changement dans le Laos contemporain. 2018 - 2022

  • "How sustainable are Laos's Green and climate resilient cities?" (2021 – 2024)

    This programme examines the "environment" - characteristics of urban production, urban governance, legislative framework - in which the various projects associated with the principles of the "green city" and the action of donors in Vientiane (the capital of Vientiane), in Pakse and Luang Prabang - secondary cities - and in Vangvieng - a small tourist town - are undergoing profound changes as a result of mega infrastructure projects.

    The approach consists of analysing the links between these projects and urban policies and mega-projects affecting urban territories. The research results will be published and disseminated to public decision makers.

    IRD research unit involved: UMR PRODIG

    Contact: Karine Peyronnie

  • Tradition and Lifestyle (2018 - 2022)

    Tradition and Lifestyle: Continuities and Change in Contemporary Laos.

    This project focuses on the evolution of forms of belonging and identity phenomena in rural and small town Laos, marked by rapid economic and social transformations. The aim is both to document the changing ways of life and to report on the current dynamics of change.


    • Presentation of village populations (the most relevant social unit in Laos) as well as of small towns in full development, located in areas far from the capital.
    • Analysis of the major transformations that the populations of these localities are undergoing: increasing integration of village economies into the market, growth of towns due to rural exodus, development of trade and service trades, etc.
    • Study of the effect of these transformations on identities, particularly ethnic and village identities: transformation of social links, redefinition of cultural affiliations, new identity processes, difficulties of cultural transmission in a context of generational break, etc.

    IRD research unit involved: URM URMIS (IRD - CNRS - University of Paris - Côte d'Azur University)

    Partners: Faculty of Social Sciences, National University of Laos (NUoL)

    For more information on this research project

    Contact: Grégoire  Schlemmer

International Joint Laboratory (LMI)

An LMI is a research program co-constructed and co-directed by IRD and its local partners (universities and research institutes) around a scientific theme and a common platform. The purpose of an LMI project is to develop and consolidate multidisciplinary research by eventually becoming (or being integrated into) a sustainable operational research structure under the responsibility of the partner country. It can be bilateral or regional.

In Laos, two regional LMI are currently operating:

  • LMI PRESTO - Understanding and mitigating zoonotic spillover events in declining biodiversity hot-spots in Southeast Asia

    The LMI PRESTO (PRotect-dEtect-STOp) is a joint research and training program at the regional level, supported by the IRD, universities and research institutes in the Southeast Asian region.

    This LMI is a multidisciplinary collaboration bringing together experts and researchers from France, Laos and Thailand sharing the common objective of preventing and combating emerging infectious diseases in the Greater Mekong Region. It is based on the existence of several long-standing partnerships and the pooling of complementary knowledge, experience and expertise in biodiversity, bioinformatics, disease ecology, epidemiology, molecular biology, public health, social sciences and virology. This will facilitate the development of an intervention platform for the early recognition and control of infectious diseases of zoonotic origin in this region, a recognized hot-spot for disease emergence risks.


    The objectives of the PRESTO LMI are to

    • Establish a sustainable research platform on emerging diseases at the human/animal/environment interface that will help regional partners to develop and thrive, while decreasing dependence on international financial support
    • Establish a local alert system with a bottom-up/mixed approach to better prepare for future outbreaks
    • Develop a sustainable surveillance toolkit with good practice guidance, to improve knowledge sharing and assist in the design and implementation of biodiversity conservation and public health strategies and policies in the Greater Mekong Subregion


    IRD research unit involved: UMR MIVEGEC (IRD/CNRS/Université de Montpellier)

    Academic institutions in the South involved in the project:


    University of Health Sciences

    National University of Laos (NUoL)


    Faculty of Associated Medical Sciences, Chiang Mai University

    Faculty of Sciences et Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Chiang Mai University

    Faculty of Veterinary Technology, Kasertsart University

    Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University

    Other institutions involved in the project:


    National Animal Health Laboratory (NAHL)

    ANOULAK (French NGO based in Laos)

    NAM THEUN 2 POWER COMPANY LIMITED (NTPC) - Laotian, Thai and French shareholders

    Lao-Christophe Mérieux Infectiology Centre (CILM)



    LOCATELLI Sabrina


    KHAMDUANG Woottichai


  • LMI LUSES - An International joint laboratory on the impacts of rapid land use change on soil ecosystem services

    LMI LUSES is a joint regional research and training programme between IRD and universities and research institutes in the Southeast Asian region.

    The research projects implemented within the framework of LUSES are centred on issues related to the agricultural context in Southeast Asia, particularly the understanding of the evolution of social and agricultural systems. Based on biophysical and socio-economic approaches, LUSES aims to promote scientific collaborations at regional and international levels, and to build capacity in areas related to the impact of land use change on soil ecological services. The knowledge and skills generated by LUSES will support sustainable management of the region's ever-changing agrosystems.

    Website: LMI LUSES

International Scientific Coordination Network (GDRI)

A GDRI is a network of French and foreign laboratories formed between several countries, including at least one developing country, around a strategic theme for research on and for sustainable development in an intertropical area. A GDRI has a scientific coordination committee.

Lao partner scientists participate in one GDRI:

  • GDRI COMPACSOL - Identifying and alleviating soil physical degradations to optimize sustainable food production

    Soil is an ecosystem that is essential to terrestrial and human life, as it directly or indirectly allows the production of 98% of our food. Soils not only contain the minerals that are essential for plant life, but they also store 80% of the water from rainfall, thanks to an infinite number of millimetre and micrometre pores. This water storage allows plants (cultivated and natural) to be fed and also limits the risk of flooding (by slowing down the flow of water towards rivers).

    However, over the last few decades, modern agricultural development techniques (mechanised cultivation, chemical inputs) have led to widespread soil degradation. A recent FAO report on the state of soils was subtitled: "systems on the verge of collapse". Soil compaction has important consequences for agricultural production, but it is almost invisible. It is, in fact, a reduction in pore volume that takes place in the millimetre to micrometre range, which requires laboratory equipment to be demonstrated, but which considerably reduces the soil's capacity to store water (even in the case of irrigation) and which results in a reduction in agricultural production.

    In this context, IRD and its partners in the region have launched the GDRI COMPACSOL in 2022 to organise a network of laboratories and research teams working on soil compaction. The first objective will be to set up standardised procedures in order to obtain quality and reliable analytical results that will enable an inventory to be made of the situation at the Mekong Basin level and to measure the evolution (geographical extension and intensity) of soil compaction over the next four years. The second objective will be to involve farmers in the development of cultivation techniques for soil prevention and rehabilitation through a participatory approach that will make the most of local knowledge and at the same time disseminate validated scientific knowledge on soils and water management.



    Institute of Ecology and Environmental Sciences of Paris (IRD - UMR IEES), France

    Institute of Technology of Cambodia (ITC), Cambodia

    Department of Agricultural Land Management (DALaM), Laos

    Faculty of Agriculture, Khon Kaen University (KKU), Thailand

    Soil and Fertilizers Research Institute (SFRI), Vietnam

    Water/Soil/Plant Exchange team - University of Liège, Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech, Belgium

    NGO ECLOSIO – University of Liège, Belgium & Cambodia

Joint research units

Pharmacochemistry and biology for development

Structure and dynamics of languages

Local heritage, environment and globalization

Functional ecology and biogeochemistry of soils and agro-ecosystems

Research center for the organization and dissemination of geographic information

Mother and child facing tropical infections: pathogens, health system and epidemiological transition

Infectious diseases and vectors: ecology, genetics, evolution and control

Translational research on HIV and infectious diseases

Geosciences environment Toulouse

Institute of Ecology and Environmental Sciences of Paris

Health economic & social sciences and medical information processing

Research program under construction

CIREN Project

The Nakai International Environmental Research Centre (CIREN) is a scientific research facility being developed around the Nam Theun 2 hydroelectric dam in Laos. This new infrastructure is being developed by the Nam Theun 2 Power Company (NTPC), the company that manages the dam, in close collaboration with IRD and the University of Toulouse. It will include an environmental observatory and a research centre.

The whole project involves staff from NTPC as well as from the aquatic environment laboratory (AELab) of EDF-CIH and IRD/University of Toulouse, the Geosciences Environnement Toulouse research unit and the Aerology Laboratory.

Eric Deharo, IRD Representative in Laos, will lead the CIREN project.

The CIREN project will adopt a One Health approach, with research areas focusing on:

  • Environmental health
  • Animal health
  • Human health