The American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene (ASTMH) acknowledges individuals for their outstanding accomplishments in tropical medicine with the “Bailey K. Ashford Medal”. On November 17, at their annual conference, the ASTMH announced that Makedonka Mitreva, PhD, professor of medicine is this year’s recipient of this prestigious award as a recognition for her distinguished work in tropical medicine.
Dr. Mitreva and her lab have a sustained commitment to study neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Her research translates basic science advances in genomics into practical knowledge that contributes to the control or elimination of helminth NTDs (including hookworm, ascaris and whipworm; and flukes, including major biological cancerogens). More specifically, Dr. Mitreva’s research focuses on, i) taxonomically restricted and differentially represented metabolic pathways in helminths as anthelmintic drug targets. Dr. Mitreva has identified chokepoint enzymes within the parasite metabolic pathways that are essential for parasite survival and is characterizing their drug-target potential; ii) sequencing and comparisons of thousands of clinical strains to investigate genome-wide polymorphism and provide a comprehensive picture of natural variations and variations related to specific phenotype, especially genetic changes involved in resistance to anthelmintic drugs. Her goal is to develop genetic markers that will facilitate monitoring and managing infections and diseases; iii) The human intestine and its microbiota is the most common infection site for soil-transmitted helminths, therefore Dr. Mitreva studies the complex cross-kingdom interactions between helminths, host immune system and the microbiome, to determine changes in microbiome assemblages during and after clearance of infection. The approaches she undertakes in these areas have accelerated progress towards finding novel and more effective ways of fighting these parasites.
The Bailey K. Ashford Medal is awarded for distinguished work in tropical medicine. The medal is awarded every year. Bailey K. Ashford was born on September 28, 1873 in Washington, DC. He received his MD from Georgetown and entered the Army Medical Corps in 1897. After the Spanish American War he was sent to Puerto Rico, in command of medical department troops.
In 1899, at age 26, he recognized that hookworms caused the anemia prevalent among the rural populations and in 1904 he founded the Puerto Rico Anemia Commission to combat the disease. Except for assignments in Washington and France in WWI, he was destined to spend almost his professional career in Puerto Rico, where he died in 1934. He was instrumental in founding the School of Tropical Medicine in Puerto Rico which later transformed into the School of Medicine. Like Dr. Ashford, Dr. Mitreva has worked on hookworms for most of her career, including sequencing the first genome of human hookworm Necator americanus and subsequently 3 other hookworm species (Ancylostoma spp.).
The first Bailey K. Ashford medal was awarded in 1941 to Lloyd E. Rozeboom with support from Eli Lilly and Company.