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Four awardees selected for Meade Travel Grants in Epidemiology 2022

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We are excited to announce the successful awardees of our Meade Travel Grants in Epidemiology 2022, who, respectively, are aiming to assess the ‘brain drain’ phenomenon in psychiatrists in Nigeria, enhance rabies control in Nigeria, help end tuberculosis in Mozambique, and understand the disparity in immune response to COVID-19 across Africa.

This research is supported by Professor Thomas Meade, a distinguished epidemiologist with a special interest in cardiovascular disease. Professor Meade received the esteemed Balzan Prize in 1997 for his work in cardiovascular epidemiology. This prize now funds the Meade Travel Grants in Epidemiology.

This funding scheme aims to support mid-career researchers in sub-Saharan Africa, working in the field of epidemiology, who are making the transition to independence. Our awardees will spend up to three months in UK research organisations, aiming to learn new skills, transfer expertise, and grow their research networks.

Each grant, of up to £13,000, will be used to support travel, visas, subsistence, and research consumables during the awardees' time in the UK.

Dr Emmanuel Essien Dr Emmanuel Essien

Dr Emmanuel Essien – Understanding the ‘brain drain’ phenomenon in psychiatrists in Nigeria

Dr Emmanuel Essien from the University of Calabar will collaborate with Dr Mariana Pinto da Costa from King’s College London to support his research into the role of ‘brain drain’ in the attitudes of early career psychiatrists in Nigeria.

‘Brain drain’ describes the phenomenon of skilled professionals moving away from their home countries to take advantage of opportunities and career prospects in usually more developed nations. This phenomenon has resulted in only 200 psychiatrists currently looking after over 200 million people in Nigeria, leaving mental healthcare hugely unstaffed.

Dr Pinto da Costa will aid the development of Dr Essien’s statistical analysis and epidemiology skills and help him conduct a cross-sectional survey at King's to understand this ‘brain drain’ phenomenon and help address the issue.

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Dr Grace Kia Dr Grace Kia

Dr Grace Kia –Improving the control and elimination of rabies in Nigeria

Dr Grace Kia from Ahmadu Bello University will work alongside Professor Katie Hampson from the University of Glasgow, to support the enhancement of rabies surveillance in Nigeria, to aid the control and elimination of the disease.

At least 1,600 people in Nigeria are currently killed by rabies each year, despite the disease being vaccine preventable. Establishing the current surveillance system for rabies in Nigeria has been difficult, due to deficient reporting tools, and a lack of trained individuals able to report and interpret the data collected.

Dr Kia plans to use her time in the University of Glasgow to improve her programming and epidemiology skills. This will help her analyse whole genome sequencing of the rabies virus in Africa that she has previously generated, as well as data from an integrated bite case management study she has recently carried out. All of this will allow an estimation to be made on the impact of current rabies prevention measures.

Dr Kia also plans to use these developed skills to better guide future scientific researchers in Africa and support the development of a ‘One Health’ workforce (a unified approach aiming to enhance communication to advance surveillance and response), to build an improved response to rabies outbreaks in Nigeria.

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Dr Celso Khosa Dr Celso Khosa

Dr Celso Khosa – Applying epidemiological principles to help end tuberculosis in Mozambique

Dr Celso Khosa from Instituto Nacional de Saúde is collaborating with Dr Tom Wingfield from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine to help understand the high prevalence of tuberculosis (TB) in Mozambique, aiming to use this knowledge to make important changes to policies.

Despite being curable with suitable treatment, TB is a worldwide leading cause of death, killing 1.6 million people in 2021. Mozambique is one of many sub-Saharan African countries burdened with TB, where HIV/TB (people living with both conditions) and drug resistant-TB are also prevalent.

Dr Khosa plans to utilise this grant to undergo a Diploma in Tropical Medicine & Hygiene, working with Dr Wingfield to improve his knowledge of public health and epidemiological principles. Dr Khosa will also present on the responses in Mozambique to TB, HIV/TB and drug resistant-TB.

Dr Khosa also plans to collaborate with Dr Jonathan Read at the University of Lancaster to learn more about spatiotemporal epidemiology (the study of how diseases are distributed in different places and times). Together, they will discuss plans for a cohort study conducted in Mozambique and South Africa, hoping to utilise findings from this study to make evidence-based changes to regional and national policies.

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Dr Kwabena Duedu Dr Kwabena Duedu

Dr Kwabena Duedu – Understanding genomic indicators of SARS-CoV-2 and their impact on COVID symptoms across Africa

Dr Kwabena Duedu from the University of Health and Allied Sciences will travel to the University of St. Andrews to collaborate with Dr Wilber Sabiiti and develop his skills in statistics and bioinformatics (using computational tools to analyse and interpret biological data). These skills will allow him to analyse the genes involved in SARS-CoV-2, aiming to understand the inconsistency in COVID symptoms across Africa.

The worldwide impact of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has been extraordinary, killing almost 7 million people as of June 2023. However, many cases of COVID-19 in sub-Saharan Africa have been asymptomatic, and a lower proportion of adverse outcomes and death has been observed; it remains unknown why.

Dr Deudu plans to receive practical training on bioinformatics and statistics, working with Dr Sabiiti, to allow him to analyse genomic sequencing datasets, using the resources at the University of St. Andrews, and model the genomic epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2.

Dr Deudu aims to understand the molecular factors that drove the pandemic within his community in Ghana, and potentially characterise novel genes involved in SARS-CoV-2 which may be useful in the development of new diagnostic tools.

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