In 2011, I moved to LSTM as Professor of Medical Parasitology and have expanded my interdisciplinary research with support from DFID_UK (COUNTDOWN) and Wellcome Trust (HUGS) programmes.
Here, I have developed specific interest in the interplay of schistosomiasis with other African diseases such as malaria and HIV as well as disability and stigma developing links with menstrual hygiene management, alongside female genital schistosomiasis . Most recently, I am exploring the changing epidemiology of (zoonotic) schistosomiasis being brought about by novel hybrids.
Today, I am adopting One Health approaches to investigate aquatic ecosystem health and sustainable management within its broadest sense. A recent geographical focus has been on Lake Malawi with Drs Janelisa Musaya and Seke Kayuni.
My previous history I graduated in Zoology and Microbiology (Joint Honours) from Leeds University in 1991 being fascinated by parasite epidemiology.
In 1992, I undertook a MSc in Biological Computation at York University with a research placement at the Sea Mammal Research Unit in Cambridge developing population genetic models for phocine distemper virus with Prof John Harwood.
Maintaining my interests in biodiversity I completed a SERC PhD studentship in 1995 under the supervision of Dr David Rollinson at the Natural History Museum (NHM) developing DNA assays for identification of Bulinus, intermediate snail hosts for urogenital schistosomiasis.We have continued to collaborate, and with several NHM colleagues, to this day.
Between 1995-1997 as a PDRA, I worked with Prof Michael Miles and Dr Iain Frame at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine determining the capacity for sexual reproduction in Trypanosoma cruzi. Being awarded a Wellcome Trust Fellowship in Biodiversity (1997-2002), I returned to the NHM to study the transmission of urogenital schistosomiasis within the Indian Ocean area. There, I undertook extensive field investigations in Madagascar with French colleagues Drs Bertrand Sellin and Philippe Bremond, as well as, on Zanzibar and Mafia with Mr Ali Foum Mgeni.
In 2003, I joined the nascent Schistosomiasis Control Initiative then headed by Dr Alan Fenwick as field programme coordinator, developing monitoring and evaluation surveillance tools and protocols with Dr Joanne Webster. Whilst there, I established longstanding research collaborations, in particular with Drs Narcis Kabatereine and Edridah Muheki. Securing a Research Leader post, I returned the NHM in 2005 and continued multidisciplinary research in Africa heading the cross-country EU-CONTRAST and Ugandan Wellcome Trust SIMI projects.
As a medical parasitologist with focus on neglected tropical diseases, my current expertise is in epidemiology and control of schistosomiasis (262 publications on SCOPUS, >7450 citations, h-index 46, average citation per item 28.4), undertaking multidisciplinary studies from molecular diagnostics to applied social science.
My research has often translated into several WHO policy changes. I have presented, co-chaired and chaired several WHO expert committees of WHO Head Office/African Regional Office and assisted in WHO Guideline Review: Schistosomiasis.
I have directly contributed in drafting WHO documents, with the following being the current roadmap for control of schistosomiasis:
- Schistosomiasis: progress report 2001–2011, Strategic plan 2012–2020,
- Eliminating soil-transmitted helminthiases as a public health problem in children Progress report 2001−2010 Strategic plan 2011−2020.
- Assessing the efficacy of anthelminthic drugs against schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis. ISBN 978 92 4 156455 7
- Report of a meeting to review the results of studies on the treatment of schistosomiasis in preschool-age children. ISBN 978 92 4 150188 0
I have assisted WHO with on-the-ground investigations for autochthonous transmission of schistosomiasis in Western and South East Asia and helped to develop national scaled maps for various African countries.
I was Director of the DFID_UK CouNTDown (2014-2019) and continue to assist the implementation research consortium in schistosomiasis- and soil-transmitted helminthiasis-related research outputs.
In 2020, I was granted a Senior Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy in recognition of undergraduate and postgraduate teaching experience.
At MSc level, I co-convene TROP 939 & TROP 719 with Dr James LaCourse on Biology of Parasites & Vectors and Parasite Epidemiology & Control, respectively. I contribute towards teaching in several other MSc & BSc modules, a highlight being at the start of each year the short residential field course. Whilst there, with Dr Michelle Stanton, we promote experiential outdoor learning, introducing students to medical malacology and novel spatial sampling frameworks using various GPS recording devices.
Between 2014-2019, I was Programme Directorship for the BSc in Tropical Disease Biology, which interfaces with the University of Liverpool, overseeing 7 taught modules in 2nd and 3rd years, inclusive of research project allocations.
Throughout the year I contribute to DTM&H, DTN and other short courses in the LSTM and also at The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).
Over the years I have supervised the MSc and BSc research projects of over seventy students from University of Liverpool, Imperial College London, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University College London, University of Cardiff and Royal Veterinary College, London.
I currently supervise 3 PhD students on NTD-related topics.
I have also acted as external examiner for research projects in Global Health at St George’s University and undertaken external curriculum review of the LSHTM MSc Control of Infectious Diseases.
Further relevant expertise
I serve as editor-in-chief of the peer-review journal Parasitology and am co-editor of the serial volume Advances in Parasitology.
I serve on the editorial boards of Acta Tropica, Infectious Diseases of Poverty and Journal of Helminthology.
In 2019 I was awarded the C A Wright Medal by the British Society for Parasitology for multidisciplinary research on schistosomiasis and highlighting the importance of female and male genital schistosomiasis in Africa.
In 2002 I was awarded the Bicentenary Medal of the Linnean Society of London for epidemiology studies of urogenital schistosomiasis on Zanzibar and molecular taxonomic investigations of intermediate snail hosts.
In years past, I have played major roles in learned societies: on the Executive and Council of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (Hon. Scientific Secretary 2003-2010), Systematics Association & Malacological Society of London, having helped each society organize several scientific meetings as well as their AGMs. A particular highlight was organizing the Centenary Meeting of the RSTMH in central London in 2007 as well as their annual 'Research in Progress' and 'Fresh From The Field' meetings with the Royal Geographical Society.
From 2011-2016, I served as Honorary General Secretary for the British Society for Parasitology and have remained an active member of the Society since 1992, organizing 3 Autumn Symposia: Progress in paediatric parasitology, Advances in diagnostics for parasitic diseases and Host-parasite genetic diversity and co-evolution.
In 2015, with Prof Mark Taylor and Dr Emily Adams, I organized the 2015 Spring Meeting in Liverpool with research focus on malaria, NTDs and associated vectors.
Schistosomiasis in Malawi: achievements, emerging challenges and lessons for the future of control
Through four presentations and discussions, this ISNTD Connect webinar charts the lessons from Malawi for the future of Schistosomiasis control & OneHealth.
Recorded on Wednesday April 7th 2021.