Stories about the people, science and research of the Medical Research Council.
15 Aug 2018
Are you interested in coming along or taking part in next year’s MRC Festival of Medical Research? Deborah Barber explores some 2018 highlights and shares tips learnt along the way for making public engagement a success.
For the last three years we’ve kicked off our summer with the MRC Festival of Medical Research. This year, over 10 days in June, 43 events were held by MRC institutes, units and centres, and teams of MRC grant holders. [...]
Continue reading: MRC Festival: Bringing research to life
20 Dec 2017
A symposium last month, to mark the 70th anniversary of MRC Unit The Gambia, revealed how much progress has been made in global health – and how much remains to be done. Pauline Mullin, the MRC’s Partnership Communications Manager for the unit, was there to find out.
Professor Umberto D’Alessandro, MRC Unit The Gambia Director, with delegates at the 70th Anniversary Symposium [...]
Continue reading: Celebrating 70 years of global health research in The Gambia
24 Mar 2017
For World TB Day 2017 Sarah Harrop looks back at 104 years of MRC-funded tuberculosis (TB) research, a history that unites scientists, industry, policy-makers and patients with a shared goal of ending TB. [...]
Continue reading: MRC tuberculosis timeline
20 Dec 2016
For our final post in the ‘To the Crick’ series, we hear from Luiz Pedro Carvalho. He’s moving from the site of what was the National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) in Mill Hill to the new Francis Crick Institute building in King’s Cross. We find out about Luiz’s work, focused on tuberculosis (TB), and look back at over 100 years of MRC-funded TB research.
Open-plan lab spaces inside the Crick
“It’s a mixture of excitement and already missing the place,” says Luiz. Mill Hill was home to NIMR for most of its lifetime but activities there have nearly come to an end. The venerable institute is now part of the Francis Crick Institute. [...]
Continue reading: To the Crick! Part 5: 100 years of tuberculosis research and 70,000 years of evolution
7 Mar 2016
For the first time, after eight years of collaborative work, results are published in Lancet Infectious Disease describing the positive impact of the introduction of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines in a low-income country. But how do you go about measuring this ‘impact’? Principal Investigator of the Pneumococcal Surveillance Project at MRC Unit, The Gambia, Dr Grant Mackenzie, explains the human resource required for large-scale disease surveillance in rural Africa, the challenges and the rewards.
The study team
Pneumococcal disease is caused by a bacterium known as Streptococcus pneumoniae. Symptoms range from sinus and ear infections to pneumonia, bloodstream infections, and meningitis. The pneumococcus bacteria cause more deaths in children worldwide than any other single microorganism and those in low-income countries are particularly at risk.
MRC Unit, The Gambia has conducted pneumococcal research for over two decades. It started with a disease burden study in 1989, in the Basse area in the rural east of The Gambia, which established the substantial burden of invasive pneumococcal disease. [...]
Continue reading: Measuring vaccine impact through surveillance
21 Jan 2016
Majidah Hamid-Adiamoh joined MRC Unit The Gambia as a scientific officer in 2004 and has been working with the malaria research programme ever since. She talks about winning the L’Oréal-UNESCO ‘For Women in Science’ fellowship, her career so far, and her plans for the future.
(Image copyright: L’Oreal South Africa)
Career in brief
I started at the Unit working on a clinical trial for a new malaria drug. Samples were collected from patients six times per day and I was responsible for performing two-assays on each sample from four different patients – that’s 48 assays every day! It was challenging but I enjoyed every bit of it.
I am very proud of the quality of malaria research output from my department, thanks to the quality of its leaders and staff. The Unit has the right people, the right environment and the appropriate facilities to conceive an idea and be able to implement it.
Following that first project, I have continued with malaria research both in the field and in the lab. I have taken a lead role in a number of projects defining the genetic profiles, or ‘genotypes’, of different malaria ‘vectors’ – agents that carry and transmit malaria, such as mosquitos – and I am currently working on a project characterising malaria transmission in The Gambia. [...]
Continue reading: Working Life: malaria researcher Majidah Hamid-Adiamoh
10 Jun 2015
Dr Olubukola Idoko is a clinical trial coordinator and paediatrician at MRC Unit, The Gambia. Here she tells us about a recent trial of a multi-dose pneumococcal disease vaccine, and why even the crazy hours are worthwhile.
Olubukola ‘Bukky’ Idoko
Throughout my medical training I always felt I wanted to do something with a focus on preventative medicine, impacting many people at once rather than individual patients every day. I realised this played an important role in solving health challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa. [...]
After finishing my medical training at the Jos University Teaching Hospital in Nigeria, I did some research and found that The Gambia had done well with their immunisation programmes for a small West African country. This led me to MRC Unit, The Gambia in 2010 and I’ve been here ever since.
Continue reading: Working life: Olubukola ‘Bukky’ Idoko
24 Apr 2015
Entomologist Musa Jawara has worked at MRC Unit, The Gambia for three decades, investigating mosquito behaviour, malaria transmission, and control methods, including pioneering work in transmission-blocking vaccines and the development of insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) for malaria prevention. He showed Isabel Baker around his work space at Wali Kunda, on the banks of the River Gambia, where he catches, breeds and dissects mosquitoes, and tries not to catch malaria in the process.
Musa Jawara at the Wali Kunda field site
To study and understand malaria epidemiology and control you must look at the parasite, the host and the vector. I focus on the vector ― the mosquito ― and try to understand how to prevent it from transmitting malaria by learning about its behaviour.
To study mosquitoes, we have to catch them first! One way is using this simple device called an aspirator (or pooter) ― a glass or plastic pipe with a rubber tube attached at one end and a filter to block the passage of mosquitoes into the tube. You point the tube towards the mosquito and suck gently to avoid crushing the insect. [...]
Continue reading: What’s in a work space? Musa Jawara and his marriage to mosquitoes
4 Nov 2014
There is growing recognition that the microorganisms which live in and on us ― our microbiome ― are crucial to our health. Anything that disrupts the delicate balance in which we live with them could cause disease. But what about when medical intervention is the cause of this disruption? Here Dr Brenda Kwambana, a postdoctoral researcher the MRC Unit, The Gambia, tells us about her work investigating the microbiome and child health.
From the time when bacteria were first viewed under a microscope in the 17th century to today, microbiology has seen its fair share of paradigm shifts. From thinking that humans outnumbered microbes, and that all microbes were germs to be avoided and destroyed, we now know that they are an integral part of our biology.
It is staggering to think that there are an estimated 100 trillion bacterial cells in the human body, 10 times the number of human cells. Of more than 100,000 different species inhabiting the body, only a tiny fraction is known to cause disease in humans.
The term ‘human microbiome’ describes the microbial communities that colonise the human body and their genes. Microbes colonise most surfaces of the body including the skin and surfaces inside the body such as the gut and respiratory tract. [...]
Continue reading: Bugs are us
25 Jun 2014
Forming the front line of research operations, fieldworkers carry out a vital role in the work of the MRC’s unit in The Gambia. Ashwin Mehta, from the MRC resilience team, supports training in the field and explains how the work carried out by fieldworkers is fundamental to saving lives and improving health.
A fieldworker talks to a mother at the immunisation clinic
MRC research operations in The Gambia consist of fieldwork in communities and clinical work in hospitals and clinics, which generates samples and data to be used in laboratory research.
As well as interacting with communities to promote the MRC mission and getting consent from communities to conduct medical research, fieldworkers are responsible for a wide range of activities from disseminating health information to collecting data and samples from people in local communities.
The MRC Unit in The Gambia currently employs more than 300 fieldworkers across three main sites in Fajara, Keneba and Basse. Fieldworkers are recruited from the local population with the equivalent of secondary-school education, and trained up on the job. Mafuji Dibba, Fieldworker Training Manager, has been working in the field for 30 years and has worked at all three sites: “Fieldworkers’ experience as they progress gives them a good idea of disease prevention and treatment. This allows them to serve as advisors in their communities. [...]
Continue reading: Front line operations: MRC fieldworkers in The Gambia