Malaria has marked the history of mankind and there has always been a quest for “magic bullets” to fight against it. In this inaugural lecture, Professor Umberto D’Alessandro reflects on his career, from patient care in rural Africa to research on malaria, first on vector control interventions, insecticide-treated bed nets, then on drug resistance, new treatments and interventions, and eventually on current elimination strategies for The Gambia and sub-Saharan Africa. The world is now aiming at malaria eradication, but the substantial progress observed over the last 10-15 years has recently stalled. Would we be able to achieve such an ambitious goal in a not too far future? The need for new magic bullets has never been so pressing.
About the speaker
Prof. Umberto D'Alessandro (MD, MSc, PhD) has a long working experience in Africa, first as a clinician (Benin and Kenya) and later as a clinical epidemiologist (The Gambia). He has been involved in malaria research since 1990 when he carried out the evaluation of the Gambian National programme on insecticide-treated bed nets. He joined the Department of Parasitology at the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium in 1996 where he was, until the end of 2010, was the head of the Epidemiology Unit. There, he developed a research program around three themes: antimalarial treatment, including drug resistance, malaria prevention, and the P. vivax in vitro cycle, implemented in several malaria endemic countries, e.g. Uganda, Burkina Faso, Benin, Vietnam, Peru, etc.
In 2011, Professor D’Alessandro joined the Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia (MRCG) as theme leader of disease control and elimination. In January 2014, he was appointed director of the MRCG. His research program on malaria at the MRCG is built around questions related to malaria elimination/eradication.