2013 Baume Travel Grant

Kazi Rahman showcases his study and its findings at the 5th World Congress on Leishmaniasis in Brazil

Kazi hopes that there will be uptake of his research findings by the policy makers locally and regionally.

Leishmaniasis refers to a group of different clinical forms of the disease caused by protozoan infection of Leishmania parasites transmitted by the phlebotomine sandflies. The disease can be cutaneous, mucocutaneous or visceral. It not only affects humans but also affects animals including canines.

In South Asia, the visceral form of leishmaniasis is also known as kala-azar meaning ‘black fever’. Someone suffering from visceral leishmaniasis usually develops high fever at the initial stage of the disease. The patient may also develop darkening of skin resulting in the local name of the disease - kala-azar. The disease, fatal if not treated, happens in clusters among the poorest of the poor of the endemic areas of South Asia resulting in substantial financial burden. Kala-azar happens only in humans in South Asia and thus targeted for elimination from the region by 2015.

Kazi Mizanur Rahman (pictured above, far right) is from Bangladesh where he was working as a member of the scientific staff of the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research (icddr,b) and a faculty member of the James P Grant School of Public Health under BRAC University before starting his PhD in 2011 at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health (NCEPH), the Australian National University. Kazi has been doing his international health thesis on South Asian kala-azar with an aim to understand the barriers of the implementation of the two major elimination strategies − early diagnosis and complete case management, and optimal disease surveillance. He finished his fieldwork in Bangladesh in 2012 and is currently analyzing data and writing the thesis. And this is exactly when Kazi got the unique opportunity to showcase his study and share its findings in the 5th World Congress on Leishmaniasis held in Porto de Galinhas, Pernambuco, Brazil from 13 to 17 May 2013. 

The World Congress on Leishmaniasis or WorldLeish (WL) “unites under one roof scientists/professionals, such as entomologists, epidemiologists, immunologists, cellular/ molecular biologists, medical doctors, pathologists, health/industrial workers, policy makers and many other ‘leishmaniacs’ who share a common interest in the most globally important and diversified group of vector born protozoan parasites – the Leishmania.” WL started its journey in 1997 when the first congress took place in Istanbul, Turkey. Since then WL has been taking place after every four years. Kazi attended the 4th WL in Lucknow, India in 2009 where he gave an oral presentation of the findings of a population based study on kala-azar in Bangladesh. This time, in WL5, Kazi got the opportunity to give three oral and one poster presentation on the findings of his recent PhD thesis project.

This opportunity was made possible when Kazi received the prestigious Peter Baume Travelling Scholarship of NCEPH, ANU. While Kazi allocated some of his PhD fund that supported his international travel cost, the Peter Baume Travelling Scholarship supplemented the conference attendance expenditure including conference registration, accommodation, local travel, other daily expenditure during the conference, and costs related to visa application and vaccination.

After returning from WorldLeish5, having successfully given all the four presentations and meeting scientists from different parts of the world working on the same disease, Kazi now feels more confident on his PhD and its thesis. He is surer that he is on the right track and his PhD and its findings will not go in vain. He hopes that there will be uptake of his research findings by the policy makers locally and regionally. He hopes that this will eventually benefit the poorest of the poor.

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