AMR Centre Publication Prize winners 2021

Uduak Okomo and Titus Divala

We are delighted to announce that the winners of the staff and student AMR Centre Publication Prizes 2021 are Dr Uduak Okomo, for her work on resistant infections in a Gambian neonatal unit, published in The Lancet Microbe, and Dr Titus Divala, for his research investigating the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics to diagnose tuberculosis (TB), published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

The prestigious Publication Prizes are awarded by the AMR Centre each year to one LSHTM staff member and one PhD student for research into antimicrobial resistance (AMR) published in the previous year (2020). The papers are judged by a panel from our management committee, with criteria focused on the applicant’s authorship role, scientific excellence and impact in the field of AMR, and the recipients are each awarded £500.

Dr Uduak Okomo is a clinical assistant professor at MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM, and the winner of our staff prize for the second year running. She is a paediatrician and epidemiologist with over 15 years of clinical experience in childhood infectious disease.

Dr Okomo’s study applied whole genome sequencing (WGS) to investigate the resistance patterns of two unrelated outbreaks of Burkholderia cepacia and multidrug-resistant Klebsiella. Her research highlighted the emerging threat of previously unreported resistant strains of bacteria, and demonstrated that WGS is a clinically useful tool to monitor AMR in sub-Saharan African settings.

Dr Okomo said: “I am both delighted and very surprised to win the prize again this year, and I am very happy to have this platform to share our important research findings. I’d like to recognise and thank all my co-authors and other colleagues for all the hard work that resulted in this publication.

“My study highlights the fact that environmental contamination is a major, yet mostly unrecognised and under-reported, contributor to outbreaks of hospital-acquired, drug-resistant neonatal infections. I hope these findings will help improve the care of new-borns in The Gambia and reduce the tragic and avoidable loss of life from these illnesses”.  

Dr Titus Divala is a research degree student in the Infectious Disease Epidemiology department at LSHTM, and has also been a practising physician in Malawi since 2009.

His winning paper was a systematic review into the common practice of using antibiotics as a diagnostic tool to distinguish TB from lower-respiratory tract infections. This study revealed a weak evidence base for the technique, poor diagnostic performance and a significant potential contribution to the AMR crisis.

Dr Divala said: “I am very honoured and extremely excited for the recognition of my work on a subject that has not had attention but is critical to addressing the two tightly intertwined epidemics of tuberculosis and antimicrobial resistance.

“This recognition is a huge highlight and an indelible mark on my career, and I thank my supervisors, Katherine Fielding and Liz Corbett, and the rest of my co-authorship for their dedication and support that led to the publication and onward impact. I am very humbled and can’t thank the AMR Centre enough for establishing this award, which apart from being prestigious, is career defining and motivating.”

Professor Clare Chandler, director of the AMR Centre, said: “Congratulations to Uduak and Titus for their well-deserved success. The panel was impressed by their excellent research papers that I’m sure will have a lasting impact, and are a great contribution to AMR research at the LSHTM. I look forward to seeing many more achievements from Uduak and Titus in their careers.

“I’d like to thank everyone who entered this year’s prizes, it was a delight to see so many AMR Centre members submit high-quality research papers covering the whole spectrum of AMR research”.

If you’d like to hear more about this year’s winning research, Dr Okomo and Dr Divala will be presenting their work at our prize-giving event on Tuesday 08 June 2021.  

AMR research published in 2021 can be submitted for our Publication Prizes 2022, for which applications will open at the end of this year on the AMR Centre website.

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