Introducing medical parasitology at the University of Makeni, Sierra Leone
Capacity building in Sierra Leone (West Africa) is critical to prevent potential future outbreaks similar to the 2013-16 Ebola outbreak that had devastating effects for the country and its poorly developed healthcare system. De Montfort University (DMU) in the United Kingdom (UK), in collaboration with parasitologists from the Spanish Universities of San Pablo CEU and Miguel Hernández de Elche, is leading a project to build the teaching and research capabilities of medical parasitology at the University of Makeni (UniMak, Sierra Leone). This project has two objectives: a) to introduce and enhance the teaching of medical parasitology, both theoretical and practical; and b) to implement and develop parasitology research related to important emerging human parasites such as Cryptosporidium spp. due to their public health significance. Two UniMak academics, hired to help initiate and implement the research part of the project, shared their culturally sensitive public health expertise to broker parasitology research in communities and perform a comprehensive environmental monitoring study for the detection of different emerging human parasites. The presence of targeted parasites are being studied microscopically using different staining techniques, which in turn have allowed UniMak’s academics to learn these techniques to develop new practicals in parasitology. To train UniMak’s academics and develop both parts of our project, a DMU researcher visited UniMak for two weeks in April 2019 and provided a voluntary short training course in basic parasitology, which is currently not taught in any of their programmes, and was attended by 31 students. These sessions covered basic introduction to medical parasitology and life-cycle, pathogenesis, detection, treatment and prevention of: a) coccidian parasites (Cryptosporidium, Cyclospora and Cystoisospora); b) Giardia intestinalis, Entamoeba and free-living amoebas; c) malaria and d) microsporidia. A theoretical session on common staining techniques was also provided. To facilitate the teaching and learning of these parasites, the novel resource DMU e-Parasitology was used, a package developed by the above participating universities and biomedical scientists from the UK National Health Service (NHS): http://parasitology.dmu.ac.uk/ index.htm. Following the two weeks of training, UniMak’s academics performed different curriculum modifications to the undergraduate programme ‘Public Health: Medical Laboratory Sciences’, which includes the introduction of new practicals in parasitology and changes to enhance the content of medical parasitology that will be subjected to examination. Thus, a new voluntary practical on Kinyoun stain for the detection of coccidian parasites was introduced in the final year module of ‘Medical Bacteriology and Parasitology’; eighteen students in pairs processed faecal samples from pigs provided by the Department of Agriculture and Food Security from a nearby farm. Academics at UniMak used the Kinyoun staining unit (available at http://parasitology.dmu.ac.uk/learn/lab/Kinyoun/story_html5.html; ) to deliver this practical. Although our project is at a preliminary stage, it has been shown to be effective in promoting the introduction and establishment of medical parasitology at UniMak and could be viewed as a case-study for other universities in low-income countries to promote the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and improve public health understanding of infectious diseases.
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Citation : Peña-Fernandez, A., Anjum, U., Koroma, S., Guetiya Wadoum, R.E., Izquierdo, F., Magnet, A., Acosta, L., Berghs, M., Lobo-Bedmar, M.C. (2019) Introducing medical parasitology at the University of Makeni, Sierra Leone. Proceedings of the 12th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation (ICERI2019), Seville, Spain, November 2019, pp. 10555-10560.
ISBN : 9788409147557
Research Institute : Leicester Institute for Pharmaceutical Innovation - From Molecules to Practice (LIPI)
Peer Reviewed : Yes