I also asked them about their biggest challenges and greatest rewards. Again unanimously, they replied that a lack of a ‘proposal-writing-culture’, access to technology and reagents and losing talent to the outside were some of the biggest challenges at the UTH. However, they all said the single biggest reward that overshadowed all the challenges was training and helping the people of Zambia. Respect.

While visiting the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) at the University of Zambia in Lusaka I was taken aback. Though the Tropical Diseases Research Center (TDRC), which I had visited just days before, was also physically located in a hospital, the center itself was separate from the hospital on the 6th and 7th floors. In finding the scattered offices of my hosts at the UTH I literally had to walk between patient wards. It quickly became apparent to me that the researchers I was about to visit were not working with samples in a vial, but with patients that desperately needed help.

During my brief visit at the UTH I had the pleasure of meeting with Prof. Paul Kelly, a gastroenterologist originally from the UK, Dr. James Mwansa, a microbiologist trained at Manchester University (UK), and Dr. Chileshe Lukwesa, a clinical microbiologist with a M.Sc from the University of London. When I asked each of them why, if they had the opportunity to live and work in a developed nation such as the UK, they left or came back to live and work in a developing nation such as Zambia they all had the same reply; “This is where the answers are needed”.

I also asked them about their biggest challenges and greatest rewards. Again unanimously, they replied that a lack of a ‘proposal-writing-culture’, access to technology and reagents and losing talent to the outside were some of the biggest challenges at the UTH. However, they all said the single biggest reward that overshadowed all the challenges was training and helping the people of Zambia. Respect.

Working at a hospital, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a research priority for both Drs. James Mwansa and Chileshe Lukwesa. Dr. James Mwansa’s research on the epidemiology and prevalence of AMR in microorganisms responsible for diseases such as cholera, pneumonia, tuberculosis, typhoid and others contributes to the Global Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (GLASS), which was set up by the World Health Organization to strengthen the AMR evidence base through enhanced global surveillance.

At a more local scale, Dr. Chileshe Lukwesa and her colleagues annually publishes a small guide that details the susceptibility and resistance of common disease-causing organisms isolated from the blood, cerebral spinal fluids, urine, stool, respiratory tract and burns from patients within the UTH. This antibiogram is distributed to clinicians within the UTH to help with rational prescription of antibiotics and thereby limit the spread of resistance. Sadly their efforts are often overshadowed by the limited availability of different antibiotics in the pharmacy.

Clearly the fight against AMR takes place on many battlefields. Lets applaud the researchers at the TDRC and UTH that have dedicated themselves to fighting AMR, despite all the challenges in their way. They are all #ChampionsInAfrica.

Until next time

Loftie

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