Battling Neglected Tropical Diseases through Research: HPC Fellow, The Task Force for Global Health

Henry Emisiko is a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow working with The Task Force for Global Health. At The Task Force for Global Health, Henry researched River Blindness, a Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD). As part of the team, he oversaw sample management, specimen handling, data management, routine laboratory management, and he actively participated in running the ELISA and RDT tests. In his blog, Henry reflects upon his time at The Task Force for Global Health.

Battling Neglected Tropical Diseases through Research
By Henry Emisiko

Becoming a Research scientist is a goal I have passionately nurtured over time. When I applied for the Hilton Prize Coalition fellowship I was full of anticipation and excited to realize this dream. As a graduate in the diverse field of research science, rising to such a platform to work with the Task Force for Global Health thrilled me not only by giving me a chance to apply my knowledge in this field but also by giving me a chance diversify my expertise.

Onchocerciasis, commonly known as river blindness, is a Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) and the second leading cause of blindness worldwide affecting 25 million people, 0.8 million of whom are visually impaired. Onchocerciasis control programs (OCP), which were founded in the year 1974, have seen the elimination of this disease as a public health problem and aim to break transmission through vector control and mass drug administration treatment. Despite a commendable reduction in the number cases, most sub-Saharan African countries are still endemic for Onchocerciasis. The struggle out of this predicament cannot be ignored given the physical and psychological trauma among infected persons not to mention the negative economic and social impacts within the affected populations.

I was enrolled to work with the Task Force for Global Health in partnership with the Kenya Medical Research Institute laboratory team spearheading the Onchocerciasis mapping in selected African countries, including Kenya, Malawi, and Burundi among others as part of monitoring and evaluation of the disease. My fellowship was preceded by a laboratory training for testing techniques by facilitators from the Centre for Disease Control (CDC).

We applied the OV 16 Antigen Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (OV 16 ELISA) and the Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) when running Dry Blood Spots (DBS) samples from various countries. These tests detect the circulating IGg4 antibodies, which are specific to the recombinant antigen of 16kDa from Onchocerca volvulus, the parasite which causes Onchocerciasis.

As part of the team, I was tasked with sample management, specimen handling and logging, data management, routine laboratory management, and actively participating in running the ELISA and RDT tests for the numerous samples involved. With such a supporting team, I was acquainted with advanced laboratory skills and nurtured the spirit of coordination, team work, accountability, and resilience given the magnitude of the work involved.

Through the fellowship, I was able to develop at both a personal and career level by gaining hands-on experience with scientific work attributed to researching and career profiling. The PMD Pro training and financial management equipped me with focal skills to handle research projects and humanitarian work. They also extended my knowledge and understanding of navigating other related life settings.

Even as I conclude my fellowship, I am humbled to be part of the efforts in fighting NTDs and determined to continue working with the various partners in ensuring the objectives of these projects are met and help secure the African continent from Onchocerciasis and other Neglected Tropical Diseases. Collectively, the last mile of NTDs eradication can be achieved!

In a nutshell, I sincerely wish to thank the Hilton Prize Coalition and The Task Force for Global Health for giving me a chance to work in research as well as for giving me support and mentorship.

(Photos courtesy of the Task Force for Global Health)

About The Hilton Prize Coalition

The  Hilton Prize Coalition  is an independent alliance of the 23 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the  Fellows Program, the  Collaborative Models Program  and the  Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat,  Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit  prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact  prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow  the Hilton Prize Coalition on  Twitter and  LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

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