My First Week at MCDI

Malaria is a disease of poverty that affects approximately 207 million people around the world and results in 627,000 deaths per year.  Malaria is transmitted by an infected female Anopheles mosquito (only female mosquitoes bite humans!) that transmits the Plasmodium sporozoite to humans through its salivary glands. The parasite then begins to replicate in the liver and travels into the blood stream where it eventually bursts.  The fever and chills that are chronicled in malaria cases result from this burst.  The malaria life cycle depends on this transmission between mosquito and human to survive. Therefore, to prevent and eradicate malaria this cycle must be broken.

This summer I am working with Medical Care Development International (MCDI) at their Malabo, Equatorial Guinea site.  MCDI is a sector of MCD, an NGO located in Maine that focuses on enhancing the well-being of peoples and communities in developing nations in the areas of health and socio-economic development.  MCDI accomplishes this mission by empowering people with the knowledge and behavior necessary to improve health care in quality and quantity so that it is affordable to the neediest people in the world.  In Malabo, MCDI has two ongoing Malaria control projects.  The Bioko Island Malaria Control Project (BIMCP) concentrates on reducing, monitoring and exploring malaria cases that occur on Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea. While the Equatorial Guinea Malaria Vaccine Initiative (EGMVI) is working on implementing one of the first malaria vaccine clinical trials in the world, with the use of Sanaria’s PfSPZ vaccine.

The EGMVI team on my first "African Wear Friday"
The EGMVI team on my first “African Wear Friday”

Although during my internship I will be working closer with the latter project, within the last week I have spent time with both projects to familiarize myself with MCDI’s overall mission here on Bioko Island.

During my first week with MCDI, I have worked with different departments and have taken on a variety of tasks.  I recently completed a Good Clinical Practice course, so that I have more background knowledge on EGMVI’s clinical trial process.  I have also contributed in conference calls and worked with a Data Program.  I also spent a day with the Entomology lab where I learned about malaria transmission, the life cycle of the mosquito, how to identify different genera of mosquitoes and helped contribute to a toxicity experiment where two chemicals used to repel mosquitoes were tested for their effectiveness.  Most recently I helped input survey data brought back from MCDI’s spraying team.

Here we are setting up an experiment to test the effectiveness of two different insecticides
Here we are setting up an experiment to test the effectiveness of two different insecticides

In the fall of last year my family moved to Malabo.  Although I had looked into a variety of internships that were located in the U.S. for this summer I decided to switch my search to possible internship opportunities in my new home.  I was informed of MCDI, their mission and their malaria control projects on the Island through a community connection. I was very interested in MCDI’s mission and took this as an opportunity to explore possible career options in the combination of public health, research and the medical sector.

Within the last week, I have bounced a bit between the two malaria control projects.  However, I am so grateful for the experience and knowledge that I have gained.  Without this foundation of knowledge about basics of malaria and malaria control I would be completely lost during the remainder of my internship! All of the staff members at MCDI have taken time to explain the building blocks of MCDI’s mission in EG and have taken care of me in every way.  I am really excited to learn more and make deeper relationships in the next 7 weeks.

In the remainder of my internship I hope to improve and become more confident in my Spanish (which is slowly but surely coming back to me!) as well as explore career paths.  The amazing things the selfless people at MCDI do to give back to their surrounding community has really impacted me and has made me think about even more ways I can use my future to help others.  I hope that, through the knowledge that I continue to gain about malaria, the causes, effects, prevention and possible eradication methods will help me refine my career goals.

– Jesse Knowles ’15