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Staff Profile: Russell Stothard

Russell StothardProfessor J. R. Stothard, BSc, MSc, PhD, DIC, FLS, FRGS

Appointment: February 2011

Areas of interest: (Molecular) epidemiology and control of tropical diseases

Research

I hope to address important questions concerning the molecular evolution and spatial epidemiology of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), with primary focus upon schistosomiasis (Schistosoma spp. and planorbid snails) and its control with preventive chemotherapy. Secondary interests include studies on the molecular evolution and epidemiology of soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH), liver flukes (Fasciola spp. and lymnaeid snails) and various protozoan diseases (trypanosomiasis, leishmaniasis and malaria).  Developing better point-of-care and field-based diagnostics is also an important objective.

With my research group (Dr Martha Betson & Mr Jose Figueiredo) and graduate students, I enjoy taking a multidisciplinary approach to develop, evaluate and apply new molecular tools to shed light on disease burdens. Major focus is in East Africa, in particular Uganda, where my studies on polyparasitism and zoonotic potential have been particularly rewarding. In addition, with a former PhD student, Ms Clare Standley, we discovered the unusual population structure of Schistosoma mansoni in Lake Victoria and its complicated genetic turnover in human and snails. These new insights have been useful in assessing appropriate disease control interventions and revealing the existence of zoonotic cycles in chimpanzees on Ngamba Island Sanctuary.

In synergy with laboratory-based methods, fieldwork is an essential aspect of my work and often undertaken in remote, rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa. In so doing, my aim is to be at the forefront of evidence-based advocacy for setting appropriate international guidelines for NTD control.

PZQ treatment in schools
A) PZQ treatment in schools

ELISA testing outdoors
B) ELISA testing outdoors  

On Ngamba Island
C) On Ngamba Island


Teaching

Each year I contribute to several teaching modules at LSTM, LSHTM and Universities of London (Imperial College London, King’s College) and Sussex, as well as, supervision of PhD students on NTDs and malaria.


Research grants

Major funding has been from The Wellcome Trust (SIMI & Millennium Health Microscope), European Union (CONTRAST), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation - Grand Challenges (SCI, Millennium Health Microscope, SCORE), Department for International Development (ICOSA).

 

Other relevant expertise, professional memberships etc.

Linnean Society of London - Bicentenary Medallist  2004 - in recognition of outstanding taxonomic research concerning the transmission of urinary schistosomiasis on Zanzibar, Tanzania.

I have served on the Executive and Council Boards of learned Societies: Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (Hon. Scientific Secretary 2003-2010), Systematics Association & Malacological Society of London, having helped them organise several scientific meetings and AGMs.

In 2010, I chaired an international meeting at WHO Geneva to review and discuss control of schistosomiasis in preschool children. Before that I have been invited to attend meetings of strategic & technical advisory group for control of neglected tropical diseases.

From April 2011, I took post as Honorary Secretary for the British Society for Parasitology and have been an active member of the BSP for over twenty years.

Background

Russell graduated from Leeds University in 1991 with joint BSc degree in Zoology & Microbiology and whilst at Leeds he undertook two scientific expeditions to Tanzania and Pakistan. These missions helped him later solidify his interests in combining field studies with those in the laboratory and understand the importance of meticulous expedition planning. In 1992, he graduated from the University of York with a MSc degree in Biological Computation having had a summer placement at the Sea Mammal Research Unit (British Antarctic Survey) on modelling the population dynamics of phocine distemper virus in common seals.

To gain molecular genetic experience, Russell obtained his PhD from Imperial College London in 1995 in developing molecular probes to assay biodiversity within the intermediate snail host Bulinus and assess its interplay with Schistosoma haematobium. This work took place under the supervision of Dr David Rollinson at the Natural History Museum and later led to the award of the 2004 Bicentenary Medal from the Linnean Society of London and several other projects based in East Africa with Professors Alan Fenwick (SCI), Thomas Kristensen (CONTRAST) & Dan Colley (SCORE).

 

Staff at Helminth Control Laboratory Unguja
D) Staff at Helminth Control Laboratory Unguja

Children at Mwera
E) Children at Mwera

 

Post-doctoral research from 1995-2005, included a molecular genetic analysis of Trypanosoma cruzi (and its capacity to undergo sexual reproduction) with Professor Michael Miles and Dr Iain Frame at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. After which Russ returned to the Natural History Museum in 1997 on a Wellcome Trust funded Fellowship to explore the evolution of schistosomiasis on Madagascar and East Africa. This was undertaken in collaboration with French colleagues, Drs Bertrand Sellin & Phillippe Bremond. In 2003, Russ joined to the newly established Schistosomiasis Control Initiative at Imperial College London as field programme co-ordinator. There he helped to set the monitoring and surveillance framework for SCI with on-the-ground experience of what could and could not work. Several trips to Niger, Burkina Faso, Zambia, Tanzania and Uganda ensued, with Russ often leading large 25-man teams collecting various disease-related information inclusive of clinical investigations and ultrasonography.

 

Aerial views over central Madagascar
F) Aerial views over central Madagascar 

Baobabs in the south
G) Baobabs in the south


Upon the retirement of Dr Vaughan Southgate, Russ again returned to the Natural History Museum in 2005 to take up a government-funded post as tenured researcher within the Biomedical Parasitology Division of the Department of Zoology progressing to Research Leader in 2009. During this time, with Professor Thomas Kristensen and again with David Rollinson, saw the formation of a large EU-funded consortium entitled CONTRAST – control of schistosomiasis transmission - which brought together groups from Senegal, Cameroon, Niger, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.  With Keith Dunning and Rick Dickinson, Russ was also involved in development of a portable handheld microscope for diagnosis of malaria and NTDs. In 2008, Russ was also fortunate to secure 4-year funding from the Wellcome Trust to employ Dr Martha Betson & Mr Jose Figueiredo and explore the occurrence of schistosomiasis in preschool children in the SIMI – schistosomiasis in mothers and infants – project. This also led to a formal collaboration with the LSHTM’s malaria reference unit with Dr Colin Sutherland.

Measuring Hb levels
H) Measuring Hb levels 

Village view in northern Cameroon
I) Village view in northern Cameroon

 

Seeking to expand his research base and assist the LSTM in their efforts in control of neglected tropical diseases, Russ joined the School in a joint appointment between Molecular and Biochemical Parasitology & Disease Control Strategy group. He still likes to take photos from planes.

Aerial photograph

J) Aerial image of Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Lake Victoria

 

Progress in Paediatric Parasitology

Progress in Paediatric Parasitology

Selected recent publications

Author to over 120 scientific research and review articles that encompass the following diseases: schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminthiasis, American & African trypanosomiasis, leishmaniasis and malaria.  I also serve on the editorial boards of Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, International Health, BMC Infectious Diseases and Parasitology. For the latter journal, I guest edited two special issues entitled Control of schistosomiasis in sub-Saharan Africa (2009) & Progress in paediatric parasitology (2011).

1. Betson, M., J. C. S. Figueiredo, et al. (2010). Intestinal schistosomiasis in mothers and young children in Uganda: Investigation of field-applicable markers of bowel morbidity. American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 83(5): 1048-1055.

2. Brooker, S., N. B. Kabatereine, et al. (2004). Schistosomiasis control. Lancet 363(9409): 658-659.

3. Gaunt, M. W., M. Yeo, et al. (2003). Mechanism of genetic exchange in American trypanosomes. Nature 421(6926): 936-939.

4. Jorgensen, A., T. K. Kristensen, et al. (2004). An investigation of the "Ancyloplanorbidae" (Gastropoda, Pulmonata, Hygrophila): preliminary evidence from DNA sequence data. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 32(3): 778-787.

5. Kabatereine, N. B., S. Brooker, et al. (2007). Impact of a national helminth control programme on infection and morbidity in Ugandan schoolchildren. Bulletin of the World Health Organization 85(2): 91-99.

6. Knopp, S., K. A. Mohammed, et al. (2010). Albendazole and mebendazole administered alone or in combination with ivermectin against Trichuris trichiura: A randomized controlled trial. Clinical Infectious Diseases 51(12): 1420-1428.

7. Olsen, A., L. van Lieshout, et al. (2009). Strongyloidiasis - the most neglected of the neglected tropical diseases? Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 103(10): 967-972.

8. Sousa-Figueiredo, J. C., D. Oguttu, et al. (2010). Investigating portable fluorescent microscopy (CyScope (R)) as an alternative rapid diagnostic test for malaria in children and women of child-bearing age. Malaria Journal 9.

9. Standley, C. J., L. Mugisha, et al. (2011). Confirmed infection with intestinal schistosomiasis in semi-captive wild-born chimpanzees on Ngamba Island, Uganda. Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases 11(2): 169-176.

10. Stothard, J. R. (2000). Trypanosome trees and homologies. Parasitology Today 16(4): 173-173.

11. Stothard, J. R. (2009). Improving control of African schistosomiasis: towards effective use of rapid diagnostic tests within an appropriate disease surveillance model. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 103(4): 325-332.

12. Stothard, J. R. and A. F. Gabrielli (2007). Schistosomiasis in African infants and preschool children: to treat or not to treat? Trends in Parasitology 23(3): 83-86.

13. Stothard, J. R., N. B. Kabatereine, et al. (2006). Use of circulating cathodic antigen (CCA) dipsticks for detection of intestinal and urinary schistosomiasis. Acta Tropica 97(2): 219-228.

14. Stothard, J. R., A. F. Mgeni, et al. (2002). New insights into the transmission biology of urinary schistosomiasis in Zanzibar. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 96(5): 470-475.

15. Stothard, J. R., J. C. Sousa-Figuereido, et al. (2011). "Schistosoma mansoni infections in young children: when are schistosome antigens in urine, eggs in stool and antibodies to eggs first detectable?" Plos Neglected Tropical Diseases 5(1).