Call edition 2012
A new edition of the Prize of the Belgian Development Cooperation has been launched. This call is open until March 31st, 2011. You can read in the regulations whether you comply with the criteria for participation.
Katherine Torres, 32 years of age, a Peruvian biologist, is a member of the Alexander von Humboldt Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Cayetano Heredia in Lima. She is part of an internationally-renowned group who develops molecular biological tools for research into the parasitic diseases that are endemic in Peru. The group is supported by the Belgian Development Co-operation, the European Union and the World Health Organization.
Katherine has devoted her Master's thesis to a disease that is common in Latin America: cutaneous and muco-cutaneous leishmaniasis or espundia. The disease starts with skin ulceration and spreads to the nose in such a manner that it can gradually eat away the face and the throat. The disease is caused by a single-cell parasite, Leishmania braziliensis, transmitted through the bite of a small mosquito. Espundia, initially limited to the tropical forest, is currently spreading rapidly, not only because of forest colonization, but also due to the domestication of its transmission in villages and urban districts. Three quarters of Peru have become at risk of leishmaniasis. The poorest populations are those most affected. Conventional treatment is lengthy, toxic and expensive. Drug resistance has also occurred. The disease has been neglected for a long time, even forgotten, particularly by pharmaceutical researchers.
For the purposes of her research, Katherine Torres has developed a simple and inexpensive model for the experimental infecting of laboratory animals with the prevalent leishmaniasis in her country: transformation of leishmanias grown in vitro into leishmanias that are infectious to the animal, purification of these infectious forms with centrifugation, and infection of in vitro blood cells and in vivo hamsters. Katherine has assessed this model on Leishmania braziliensis and on a Leishmania parasite specific to Peru that is not very virulent, L. peruviana. The biological and genetic comparison of these two parasites has shown the value of the experimental model proposed by Katherine. Henceforth, this model allows for the fundamental and applied study of the different species of Latin American leishmanias, in all stages of development in insects and in animals, and in particular the epidemiological monitoring of drug resistance, its genetic understanding, and research into new medicines.
report: Prof. emeritus D. Le Ray, Department of Parasitology, Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium