Derick Nii Mensah Osakunor



Group member since October 2016                                                                                                                               

Supervisor: Prof Francisca Mutapi

Project title: Paediatric Schistosomiasis: dynamics and consequences  


Project summary:

Schistosomiasis, commonly known as Bilharzia affects over 60% of African children with over 14 million of them below the age of 5 years. It is the second parasitic disease of public health importance and the second most frequently reported reason for school absence in Zimbabwe. Research and control strategies directed at preschool children (i.e. children less than 6 years old) have lagged behind those in older children and adults. I am interested in describing the  dynamics and consequences of schistosomiasis in preschool children in Zimbabwe. I am examining this using epidemiological and diagnostic tools to describe exposure and disease patterns. I am also examining how different treatment regimens can be employed to reduce reinfection and morbidity rates by inducing and boosting immune responses to infection. In addition, I am using molecular, immunological and biochemical tools to understand the basis of infection, morbidity, and reduced reinfection and morbidity, following treatment.           



So far, my findings show that young children can develop clinical disease quickly, and are at risk of malnutrition and stunted growth. However, existing diagnosis methods and treatments are effective in reducing the impact and spread of disease, which is welcome news for managing cases of infection in young children in Zimbabwe and in Africa as a whole. My long-term goal is to provide information and demonstrate how surveillance, diagnosis and treatment of first schistosome infections can be integrated into existing African health delivery systems, such as the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) in Zimbabwe. Given the operational challenges associated with treatment in such studies, our work has contributed to the Phase III clinical trial of the paediatric praziquantel formulation in Zimbabwe.



I received both my Bachelor (Medical Laboratory Technology) and Master’s degree (Chemical Pathology) from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana. My research interest stems from working as a research assistant on a Buruli ulcer project at the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research in Tropical Medicine in Ghana. My previous research covers areas from infectious tropical diseases to chronic and non-communicable diseases. Prior to my PhD, I was a senior Biomedical Scientist/Chemical Pathologist with The Lister Hospital and Fertility Centre in Ghana where I worked for five years.


Relevant Publications:

Osakunor DNM, Sengeh DM, Mutapi F: Coinfections and comorbidities in African health systems: At the interface of infectious and noninfectious diseases. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 2018, 12(9):e0006711.

Osakunor, D. N. M., D. M. Sengeh, and F. Mutapi. 2018. 'Universal Health Coverage in Africa: Coinfections and Comorbidities', Trends Parasitol.

Osakunor, D. N. M., T. Mduluza, N. Midzi, M. Chase-Topping, M. J. Mutsaka-Makuvaza, T. Chimponda, E. Eyoh, T. Mduluza, L. T. Pfavayi, W. M. Wami, S. A. Amanfo, J. Murray, C. Tshuma, M. E. J. Woolhouse, and F. Mutapi. 2018. Dynamics of paediatric urogenital schistosome infection, morbidity and treatment: a longitudinal study among preschool children in Zimbabwe', BMJ Glob Health, 3: e000661.

Osakunor, D. N. M., M. E. J. Woolhouse and F. Mutapi (2018). "Paediatric schistosomiasis: What we know and what we need to know." PLoS Negl Trop Dis 12(2): e0006144.