Lucas Rocha (IOC/Fiocruz)
Despite an ocean of distance, Brazil and Mozambique have been working together to train a generation of new African scientists dedicated to local health issues for almost a decade. The International Cooperation Program for Postgraduate Studies in Health Sciences is the result of a partnership between Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) and the National Institute of Health of Mozambique (INS). The initiative, which offers Master's and PhD degrees in Stricto Sensu Postgraduate Programs at Instituto Oswaldo Cruz (IOC/Fiocruz) graduated more 14 students in July. With that, it has added more than 40 students over the nine years of partnership.
"Taking our Master's Program and PhD Program courses to Mozambique is an act of solidarity with a country lacking of graduate training, and it is also very rewarding. This is translated into improvements in the quality of the research carried out locally, with direct impacts on the health of the people of Mozambique", points out Renato Porrozzi, investigator of the Leishmaniasis Research Laboratory of IOC and program coordinator.
The profile of students is varied, including professionals working in public health in different provinces. In view of such a diversity of backgrounds, students' research projects compose a true mosaic. "The studies developed in the context of dissertations and theses of students contribute to fill gaps in scientific knowledge, with an emphasis on investigations about infectious diseases such as malaria, Aids and intestinal parasites", explains Renato. Influenza and syncytial virus, enterovirus, hepatitis B, malaria, dengue, HIV, leptospirosis and hantavirus were among the topics defended by the students of the fourth class of Master's Program of the Brazil-Mozambique partnership.
Classes are taught by investigators of both institutions, and most of the meetings are held at the INS headquarter in Maputo, capital of Mozambique. Yet in the laboratories of IOC, in Rio de Janeiro, students develop practical aspects of the projects, such as the analysis of samples.
Projects like Henis Mior's one, one of the new masters of the partnership, who presented results from a study of lymphatic filariasis, arise from research works in labs' desks. Considered as a neglected disease by the World Health Organization (WHO), lymphatic filariasis causes victims both in Mozambique and Brazil. Henis investigated a topic with a direct interface with public health: the effectiveness of mass treatment protocol, which has been advocated in efforts for the elimination of the disease. According to that protocol, a set of people receives the medicine even without an individual diagnosis, taking into account the high transmission rate in the locality.
The study was based on a survey conducted in the town of Murrupula, Nampula province, in Mozambique, with the participation of over 670 people. The tests considered aspects that indicate the persistence of infection in patient six months after the administration of the first dose of the treatment. The results suggest that a single dose of the medication provides no significant reduction of the presence of parasites in the faeces of the treated patients nor of the antigen in the body. "The survey data can be used to assess the achievement of the campaign goals, which is of great importance to public health in Mozambique. There is also the opportunity to measure the impact of large treatment programs in areas lacking of resources, which present great logistical difficulties", said Adeilton Brandão, who guided the presentation of the results of the project along with Ricardo Thompson, investigator of INS and coordinator of the project in Mozambique.
"The Master's Program is welcome for health professionals and investigators in general, as it brings improvements in the performance of research and teaching in the health field. I intend to proceed with my studies by monitoring infection by lymphatic filariasis, up to the elimination of the disease in the country", Henis points out, celebrating the title achieved.
Tuberculosis and hepatitis
The trajectory of the student Nédio Jonas Mabunda is an example of stimulus to scientific and academic production in Mozambique through international cooperation. Investigator at the National Institute of Health, Nédio is a veteran of the initiative: he completed the Master's Program in 2013, and now is in the PhD Program.
In the PhD Program's project, he investigated the association between the genetic characteristics of the host and the development of the manifestations of tuberculosis. The study noted, in particular, the behavior of some cytokines, molecules responsible for signaling between cells in immune reactions. The results showed that some cytokine 'tumor necrosis factor' characteristics are related to an increased risk in disease progression. In the project conducted throughout the PhD program, the topic is genetics once more: the mutations that influence the development of hepatitis B infection, an endemic disease in Mozambique, and one of the leading causes of liver cancer in the country.
"I started my professional activity in the Molecular Virology Laboratory of INS and I always had passion for genetics. I looked at the Master's Degree Program as an opportunity for a specific learning in research, coupled with my work and passion field. Today, PhD Program is an important tool for the fortification of my scientific career", said Nédio.