13 March 2014 14:35

Research to help fight malaria in sub-Saharan Africa has won PhD student Emanuele Giorgi a $3000 prize at the International Biometric Society's world conference.

He is the European winner of the “Young Statistician’s Showcase” prize for his work for his work on malaria prevalence mapping. He will present the paper, selected from more than 30 entries, at the 2014 conference in Italy.

The other authors include Sanie Sesay and Dianne Terlouw from Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Professor Peter Diggle from Lancaster Medical School.

Emanuele, studying for a PhD in Statistics and Epidemiology in Lancaster’s Faculty of Health and Medicine, said: “If in the long term we really want to eradicate malaria from sub-Sahara Africa we first need to intervene in these areas of high risk.

“For example by making use of our developed methodology we can produce continuous maps of malaria prevalence and identify hotspots of malaria, i.e. areas where the malaria burden is exceptionally high.

“The way that my research can help these people is by informing policy makers where urgent intervention is needed.”

As part of his research, Emanuele spent some months in Malawi where he worked at the Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Programme in Blantyre.

He said: “Some of my Malawian friends told me that Malawian people consider malaria in the same way as we consider flu in Europe. It's almost impossible for a Malawian not to contract malaria once in a life. Those who bear the greatest sufferings from malaria are children under 5 years and pregnant women because it's in these groups that malaria can have the most violent expressions.”

He said he was humbled by the poverty he encountered and the friendliness of the people.

“Malawi is called the "warm heart of Africa" because people are indeed very friendly and they have never experienced a civil war. You can see children, most of them malnourished, smiling and whose favourite toy is a broken branch from a tree.

“Spending so much time there had a great impact on my professional development and, particularly, made me understand that "statistical units" in my data-sets are actually human beings. For these reasons I did my research with the greatest passion because I very well realized what impact it could have in a developing country such as Malawi.”