By addressing important questions concerning the molecular evolution and spatial epidemiology of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), my primary focus is upon schistosomiasis (Schistosoma spp. and planorbid snails) and its control with large-scale preventive chemotherapy. Secondary interests include soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH) and other snail-trematode diseases e.g. fascioliasis, as well as their interplay with malaria. I have made a major contribution to disease control in East Africa and recently highlighted the importance of female and male genital schistosomiasis with reference to longer term control of the HIV epidemic in Africa.
A key theme throughout my research is development, application and evaluation of better point-of-care diagnostics set against a background of quality disease surveillance and monitoring. As a specialist in field epidemiology and research-led expeditions, I am particularly interested in disease transmission cycles that cross-over into zoonosis and one-health concepts. Highlights have included, for example, better disease management on Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, Uganda.
Participants at FGS workshop
I regularly provide advice to WHO and other disease control agencies. My work bridges the gaps between laboratory and field-based investigations and is often undertaken in remote, rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa. In so doing, my aim is to be at the forefront of evidence-based advocacy for setting appropriate international guidelines for NTD control. Recent progress has been addressing the treatment needs of infants and preschool-aged children with schistosomiasis.
Teaching and student supervision
In 2014 I took over Directorship for the BSc in Tropical Disease Biology, which interfaces with the University of Liverpool and help to oversee 7 taught modules in 2nd and 3rd years, inclusive of research projects.
At MSc level, I co-convene TROP 719 Parasite epidemiology & control with Dr James LaCourse and contribute to teaching in several other modules, a highlight being at the start of each year the field course at Preston Montford, Shropshire. There, with Dr Michelle Stanton , we introduce students to medical malacology and novel spatial sampling frameworks using various GPS recording devices. This builds upon initial research-led water contact studies on schistosomiasis in Uganda as reported by Seto et al. .
Throughout the year I contribute to DTM&H, DTN and other short courses.
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 and Royal Veterinary College, London. I currently supervise 5 PhD students on NTD-related topics. I also act as external examiner for research projects in Global Health at St George’s University.
Other relevant expertise, professional memberships etc.
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, organising 2 Autumn Symposia: Progress in paediatric parasitology & Advances in diagnostics for parasitic diseases. With Mark Taylor and Emily Adams, I organised the 2015 Spring Meeting in Liverpool with focus on malaria, NTDs and vectors. In September 2017, I will be organising the Autumn Symposium at the Linnean Society of London with Dr Bonnie Webster on host-parasite genetic diversity and co-evolution.
I serve as co-editor of the peer-review journal Parasitology, the serial volume Advances in Parasitology and editorial board of Journal of Helminthology. I have also played other 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 organise several scientific meetings as well as AGMs. A particular highlight was organising the Centenary Meeting of the RSTMH in central London during 2007 as well as the Research in Progress and Fresh from the field meetings with the Royal Geographical Society.
In 2004 I was Bicentenary Medallist of Linnean Society of London in recognition of outstanding taxonomic research concerning the transmission of urinary schistosomiasis on Zanzibar, Tanzania. The Linnean Society of London is the world’s oldest active biological society. Founded in 1788, the Society takes its name from the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778) and the Society continues to play a central role in the documentation of the world’s flora and fauna.
Some key long term collaborators
I have had the pleasure to work and visit several colleagues in Argentina, Brazil, Liberia, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Madagascar, Zambia, Zimbabwe and China. My longer term collaborations have benefited from:
David Rollinson, The Natural History Museum, London
Thomas Kristensen, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Juerg Utzinger, Swiss Tropical Public Health Institute, Switzerland
Alan Fenwick, Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, London
Lisette van Lieshout, Leiden University Medical Centre, The Netherlands
Jaco Verweij, Tilburg Hospital, The Netherlands
Mark Eisler, University of Bristol, Langford
Narcis Kabatereine and Edridah Muheki, Vector Control Division (Kampala), Uganda
Louis Albert Tchuem-Tuchente, Univeristy of Yaonde, Cameroon
Colin Sutherland and Amaya Bustinduy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Colin heads the Pumphandle Blues Band (www.pumphandleband.co.uk), a good-willed musical collective largely dominated by malariologists but brought to order by their Liverpool helminthologist.