Millions of people in low-income countries live with debilitating diseases such as schistosomiasis caused by parasitic worms. But despite having impacts similar in scale to malaria and tuberculosis, treatment of these neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) caused by parasites receive much less funding for treatment and research.
A new initiative led by Imperial College of London researchers will leverage state-of-the-art technologies and new computer simulation techniques to test a more comprehensive set of interventions to break the transmission of these parasites in rural Ethiopia. If successful, this work could provide a model for similar initiatives in rural communities around the world.
If you want to do this kind of globally-impactful research for communities that need it most, the online Global Master of Public Health degree lets you work alongside Imperial College faculty from anywhere in the world.
The Imperial College-led research initiative is being conducted in the Wolayita zone in south-east Ethiopia, home to 2 million people. In Ethiopia, as elsewhere, current national programs rely almost exclusively on drug treatments to attempt to mitigate the impacts of parasitic infections.
Mathematical models developed by Imperial researchers suggest that there is potential to break the transmission of these infections by combining drug treatments with other types of interventions. in collaboration with local non-government organizations and the Ethiopian Ministry of Health, the project team will implement additional provision of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WaSH) resources and related behavior change communications alongside the distribution of deworming tablets.
This project will be the first attempt to implement this package of interventions at scale in a low-income country, but it is also groundbreaking because of the monitoring technologies used. Researchers are using biometric fingerprint technology from Simprints to identify and track 200,000 participants over the course of the five-year project. By creating a verifiable register of those living in Wolaita who are complying with the treatment, researchers will be able to develop a robust dataset that can be analyzed to provide insights for parasite control policies.
The London Centre for Neglected Tropical Disease Research at Imperial College London is heading up this research, providing the mathematical modeling underlying the project as well as technical support and capacity-building for their collaborators at the Ethiopian Public Health Institute. Ethiopia’s Federal Ministry of Health will be responsible for distribution of the deworming treatments, and World Vision Ethiopia will lead on WaSH infrastructure and associated behavior change communications activities.
This kind of close collaboration with government and non-government institutions alike is characteristic of Imperial College’s global approach to solving pressing public health challenges at the local level. If this aligns with your goals for your public health career, the online Global Master of Public Health degree gives you an opportunity to work with Imperial faculty from wherever you are.