Dr Seraphine Esemu
Dr Seraphine Esemu, Laboratory for Emerging Infectious Diseases, University of Buea, Cameroon
What are the environmental reservoirs and the Mycobacterium ulcerans strains circulating in the South West Region of Cameroon?
Dr Esemu is a microbiologist. For her PhD she studied the transmission by ticks of a bacterial pathogen that causes serious disease in cattle and, as a consequence, large economic losses. She is now turning this experience to the insects believed to be responsible for transmitting a serious human disease from one person to another in Africa.
“Buruli ulcer is a major and growing health challenge in Cameroon,” says Dr Esemu. “In the 14 years from 2001 to 2014, the number of health districts in which Buruli ulcer is endemic rose from two to 64. The bacteria (Mycobacterium ulcerans) have been found in water bugs and other environmental samples but the route(s) of transmission have not yet been established unequivocally.”
Dr Esemu will use new skills and pilot data from her AREF Fellowship to strengthen the design of her intended project to unmask the vector(s) of Buruli ulcer bacteria.
Following a “kick-off” meeting in Cameroon, Dr Esemu will sample aquatic insects with the expert advice and training of Dr Rory Post of Liverpool John Moores University. Dr Ben Makepeace, her sponsor at the University of Liverpool, will facilitate Dr Esemu’s training in next-generation sequencing and bioinformatic analysis, using M ulcerans isolates from South West Cameroon.
Dr Esemu intends also to benefit from Liverpool University’s transferable skills training programmes, an international conference, and new connections in entomology and microbiology in Europe and Cameroon itself.
“Transmission of the disfiguring Buruli ulcer bacteria is still very poorly understood. So my skills development and research should generate additional knowledge with the potential to inform public health and control efforts in Africa.”