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Introducing our first LUMC Global PhD candidate: Jeremia J. Pyuza

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June 21, 2021

Creating new sustainable relationships between the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) and international counterparts is one of the core elements incorporated in the LUMC Global strategy. Through multiannual partnerships in (bio)medical research and education, we aim to contribute to global healthcare improvement. We’re therefore very excited to announce our first Global PhD candidate, Jeremia J. Pyuza, who’s at the centre of a newly set-up collaboration between Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC), Tanzania and the LUMC.

Getting to know Jeremia

Even though he just started his PhD project, Jeremia is no stranger to the LUMC. The African medical doctor and lab scientist first commenced studies at the LUMC through our Half Minor course on Global health. During this time, active discussions on follow-up projects with Professor and Dean Pancras Hogendoorn and Professor Maria Yazdanbakhsh ultimately led to this recently established collaboration between KCMC and the LUMC.

His research project

Now, Jeremia is working on research focused on the role of parasitic infections and different geographical locations on the immune system and vaccination. Tanzania is the second country for the burden of Schistosomiasis after Nigeria in Africa, for example, making research on this subject all the more relevant. From his pilot study, conducted in the Mwanga district Kilimanjaro region in Tanzania, he concluded that Schistosomiasis affects around 50 percent of children. “We are now trying to get a better understanding of how infection and the environment affect the immune system”, says Jeremia. To date, Tanzania is receiving millions of doses of vaccines, and uses a large proportion of its resources to buy and distribute vaccines. However, there are very few studies that evaluate the immunogenicity of vaccines, particularly live ones, in populations living in different geographical areas. “With the current proposal we plan to investigate whether parasites are associated with poor vaccine responses in Tanzania. If they are, we want to identify the mechanisms responsible for blocking vaccine responses, which will allow us to reverse this block and, thus, improve vaccine responses. Therefore, we want to analyze the immune system of those living in rural areas where exposure to parasites is high and compare it to those living in urban areas where burden of these infections is low. We will then compare their response to a vaccination” says Jeremia.

And the young researcher is now at the start of the project. “Right now, I’m trying to get a proper understanding of the subject and the project in general. I’m working on writing a review article on the subject. This will help to see what has already been discovered on the subject and identify where the gaps in our knowledge are. Hopefully we can fill some of them. I’m also working on my research proposal to submit for ethical review in Tanzania after which I will come to the LUMC to learn more on data collection, sample processing, and data analysis”, says Jeremia.

A valuable collaboration

His journey to the LUMC will mark the first of many. Jeremia will travel to the LUMC to use and learn about technology not available at KCMC for his research. He will use the skills gained to continue his research for patients in Tanzania. The LUMC, in turn, will send students of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences to Tanzania to gain knowledge on tropical diseases and parasitic infections not occurring or uncommon in the Netherlands. Jeremia will supervise these students to help them become more rounded professionals and help them gain inadept knowledge not easily available in the Netherlands. Jeremia: “They will be exposed to patients actually suffering from these conditions and see how we treat them. An experience they cannot obtain at home.”

Jeremia leaves us with this concerning his project: “This project is very important and hopefully we can really set our mark for future research and expand knowledge on the subject. Knowledge doesn’t expire. Stimulating more knowledge is, thus, indispensable.” Finally, Jeremia sends his sincere word of thanks to Professor Gilleard Masenga the excutive director KCMC,  Dr Sarah Urassa Director of hospital services KCMC, Professor Sia Msuya a local supervisor, and Dr Elichilia R Shao who will be among teachers for exchange students, for their generous support at the start and continuation of this collaboration.


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