23 July 2015
On June 30th, Dr Nafo-Traore, Executive Director of Roll Back Malaria, visited the MRC Unit in the Gambia, as a representative of WHO, to discuss Malaria Elimination strategy with the Ministry of Health (MoH) and to give support to the National application of the Global Fund. During her visit, she was given a tour of the facilities, “the only way to achieve malaria elimination within the coming years is through research” she said, as her main interest was seeing the activities in the malaria labs and ongoing malaria studies at The Unit. Several members of the malaria team and other members of the Disease Control and Elimination Theme (DCE) were also present during the visit.
Dr Nafo-Traore was shown around the MRC laboratories by Dr Davis Nwakanma, Head of laboratory services and Dr Muna Affara, Malaria lab manager. The tour started in the Malaria microscopy facility, where Dr Nafo-Traore was shown the direct entry system for microscopy data, developed “in house” by the MRC Unit’s database developers. She was extremely impressed by the way it improved both the efficiency of reading thousands of project slides generated in the field and the way it reduced transcription error rates. Next, she was shown the shared molecular diagnostics facility in the Himsworth building, to demonstrate the pipeline for molecular diagnosis of malaria, from dried blood spot filter paper to the final result. During the tour, she commented “I am impressed by the uniqueness of these laboratory facilities that have the capacity of processing large quantities of field samples and analysis through a robust, semi-automated system.” Finally, she was taken through the Biobank and Liquid Nitrogen (LN2) facilities, to highlight The Unit’s capacity to store important biological samples generated from the different research projects.
After the laboratory tour Dr Anna Roca, Theme Coordinator for DCE, started the presentation sessions, explaining the overall strategy of the DCE theme and the role of malaria within the theme. Dr Nafo-Traore was pleased to know that beyond malaria, The Unit is involved in several projects with direct public health implications aimed at strengthening the maternal and neonatal work in the coming years. Thereafter, Dr Jane Achan, Coordinator for Malaria, presented an overview of the malaria research activities at The Unit and discussed the new global paradigm that calls for acceleration of the progress towards malaria eradication. She noted that accelerating the trajectory to malaria eradication can be done by concurrently achieving three goals which include identifying the human reservoir of infection in asymptomatic persons, eliminating this human reservoir of infection combined with geographically and temporally targeted transmission prevention and strengthened surveillance and response. The last presentation of the day was done by Dr Muhammed Afolabi, Principal Investigator, who dwelled on the malaria vaccine research, currently ongoing at The Unit.
Dr Nafo was generally very impressed with the scope of studies and data being collected. She reiterated the significant role; such study findings play in guiding government policies and prevention approaches and said “I am very happy to see the close working relationship between the Malaria group at the MRC, the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) and MOH. I really encourage this collaboration to continue in order to achieve meaningful progress in the fight against malaria.”
At the end of the visit, the team did the group photo in front of the mosquito, as Dr Nafo-Traore was delighted to see a giant Anopheles Gambiae in The Unit. She acknowledged the important role that The Unit plays in malaria research and control within the Gambia.