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Dr Maganga Burton Sambo (2021)

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Picture of Dr Maganga Burton Sambo

Employing institution: Ifakara Health Institute (Tanzania) 

Host institution: University of Cambridge (England)

Project title: Developing modelling skills for improving dog vaccination efficiencies for controlling and eliminating rabies.

Dr Sambo is a field epidemiologist, currently focusing on developing and testing innovative strategies for delivering mass dog vaccination, with the ultimate aim of eliminating human death from rabies.

AREF Fellowship Research Project:

Rabies can be eliminated through vaccinating 70% of susceptible dog population (the main transmitters). However, achieving even coverage can be difficult across large geographic areas. Often the major burden of rabies falls within the health sector, yet the veterinary sector is responsible for rabies control. The two sectors usually operate independently with little coordination, which results in a lack of awareness about the scale of the problem and the appropriate steps that could be taken.

To measure epidemiological impacts of vaccination interventions requires sophisticated and often tailor-made computational techniques. He aims to acquire computational skills to develop a computational algorithm for measuring the effectiveness of dog vaccinations.

His fellowship will take place at two institutions. First, at the University of Cambridge where he will study data analysis and modeling for infectious diseases, and develop computational algorithms, the algorithm that will rapidly calculate a minimum number of dogs (per village) that will need to be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity and interrupt endemic circulation of the virus. Second, at the University of Glasgow where he will develop the system that will be sending automated SMS to dog vaccinators to conduct remedial dog vaccinations in poor-performing villages. 

During the postplacement period, Dr. Sambo conducted mass dog vaccinations against rabies, collected and analyzed dog vaccination data, and prepared two manuscripts for publication. He also widened his network by attending scientific conferences and disseminated research output to the scientific community. Dr. Sambo is now teaching Advanced Epidemiology to MSc students on Tanzania, using the skills on epidemic models that he gained during his placement at Cambridge and Glasgow.

Upon completion of his fellowship, Dr. Sambo returned home to Tanzania and increased his collaboration and network participation to boost his research leadership skills. He received a CDC-US grant and attended AREF grant writing programme.  

Overall, this fellowship has added valuable experience to my career and helped me achieve my research career goals. It has also improved the research capacity in my organization and contributed to the dog vaccination interventions that protected animals and humans against rabies. I plan to use infectious diseases modelling to contribute to elimination of dog-mediated rabies in Tanzania and across Africa.