Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 21st 2016 Contents 10 UWI TODAY – SUNDAY 21ST FEBRUARY, 2016
MAKING OUR MARK
Dr. Christine Carrington
Professor of Molecular Genetics and Virology,
Faculty of Medical Sciences, UWI.
a. She presented a paper entitled ‘Zika virus in the
Americas: A new challenge for Trinidad and Tobago’
b. She mentioned that ZIKV, the causative agent of Zika
fever, is a mosquito-borne flavivirus that is currently
emerging in the Americas. The virus was first isolated
in 1947 in Uganda, and prior to 2015 outbreaks was
confined to Africa, Asia, and more recently Micronesia.
In 2015 Brazil reported local transmission of ZIKV and
has now recorded more than 1.5 million cases. The virus
has recently spread to countries neighbouring Trinidad
and Tobago (T&T) including Venezuela, Guyana,
Suriname and Barbados, and has been reported in 21
countries including six Caribbean islands.
c. Zika fever (which develops in about 25% of infected
individuals) is a short, self-limiting febrile illness with
severe complications but fatalities are rare. However,
there is evidence from the Brazilian outbreak to suggest
that the virus is associated with a more than 20-fold
increase in the number of cases of microcephaly
in newborns, as well as with a condition known as
Guillain-Barré syndrome. There is no specific treatment
or vaccine currently available for ZIKV, so protection
against mosquito bites the best form of prevention.
Avoiding pregnancy during high risk periods has also
UWI leads discourse on H1N1 and Zika Viruses
Healthcare professionals and leaders from both the private and public sectors convened on 31 January at the Teaching and Learning Complex, Lecture Theatre A, The
University of the West Indies (The UWI) for a medical symposium entitled ‘A Call to Arms against H1N1 (Swine Flu) and the Zika viruses.’ This symposium was hosted as
a joint effort between The UWI’s Faculty of Medical Science and The Ministry of Health. The one day symposium was intended to facilitate discussion and provide health
professionals with the facts needed to prepare them to manage the public health risks associated with the viruses.
Minister of Health, Terrence Deyalsingh brought remarks and Dr Rakhee Palekar, Feature Speaker, presented on the ‘Epidemiology of H1N1 Infections’. Dr Palekar is
Palekar is a medical epidemiologist on the influenza team of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Also speaking were Dr Clive Tilluckdharry, Chief Medical
Officer, Ministry of Health and the Dean of The UWI’s Faculty of Medical Science, Professor Terence Seemungal. Professor Seemungal led a slate of UWI experts and
medical practitioners who addressed the clinical aspects of the H1N1 and Zika diseases and facilitated a panel discussion on the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and control
of the viruses, mapping the way forward.
“The Zika virus (ZIKV) has not yet been detected locally but it is present in the Americas – Brazil and Puerto Rico - and though we are already faced with cases of the
pandemic influenza H1N1, it is preventable and manageable. There is however a great need for health professionals to be alert and prepared to act to prevent and manage
the viruses. The symposium is one of the ways that The UWI is owning its responsibility for providing information and guidance to the healthcare sector and the wider
community on health-related issues,” said Professor Terence Seemungal, Dean of the Faculty of Medical Science.
The following are highlights from the presentations made by members of The UWI medical faculty.
d. At the time of her presentation she noted that Zika
virus had not yet been reported in T&T. However,
given that (as elsewhere in the region), Aedes aegypti is
endemic and our local population is immunologically
naïve to ZIKV, it is surely only a matter of time before
transmission is confirmed in T&T. She discussed
the nature and origins of ZIKV, its epidemiology in
the Americas, factors underlying its emergence and
methods used for diagnosis. She also reviewed the
current evidence for its association with microcephaly
and Guillain-Barré syndrome, and the overall public
e. In reviewing ‘Zika in the America’ she informed the
audience that Zika virus arrived in the Americas in
2015 with cases documented Brazil and Colombia.
Largest ZIKV outbreak in the Americas reported in
2015 in Brazil with 1.5 million cases. Cases have been
reported in 21 countries in the Americas and the first
case in the USA reported in Texas in 2016.
f. Suggested that human activities may have contributed
to the emergence of ZIKV induced cases. These include
globalization and urbanization: rapid and extensive
global transport, increased populations in urban areas;
habitat destruction, forest encroachment, intensive
farming and other agricultural activities.
g. Dr Carrington summarized the impact of ZIKV as
being economic losses associated with morbidity,
decrease in tourism, serious conditions (microcephaly,
h. In Brazil, in 2015 alone there were approximately
3,500 (20 times the usual number); Increase in cases
occurred within months after ZIKV being identified,
Virus detected in amniotic fluid in pregnant women
carrying microcephalic babies;
i. Precautions suggested include: Women encouraged to
delay pregnancy in some countries, travel warnings
issued for pregnant women, more research needed
to confirm link, determine most vulnerable period of
pregnancy and risk.
j. Public health control measures: Since there is no known
vaccine or treatment, making mosquito control the key
k. Mosquito control suggested to include: Reduce mosquito
population, reduce breeding sites, spraying, public
education, protection, bed nets, insect repellants, extra
care for pregnant women
Part of the packed house for the medical symposium entitled A Call to Arms against H1N1 (Swine Flu) and the Zika Viruses jointly hosted by The UWI and the Ministry of Health.
SUNDAY 21ST FEBRUARY, 2016 – UWI TODAY 7
MAKING OUR MARK
Legend has it that every man’s dream job is that of rock
star. For some, the next best thing to rocking out on a stage
to thousands of screaming fans is rocking out in the top 5%
of 32 million researchers visited at one website.
To add another layer of pun to this story, this rock star
of academia is Brent Wilson, Professor of Palaeontology
and Geology at St Augustine’s Department of Chemical
Engineering, Petroleum Geoscience Programme. In January
alone his work posted on the site Acadmia.edu received
75 profile views and 65 document views from 45 unique
visitors, which put him in the top 5% of all 32 million
researchers hosted by the site.
While tenured at The UWI, he has published 55 papers
in refereed journals, and 14 articles in newspapers and
books. He has presented research seminars on his work at:
Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.,
of which he was made a research associate in 2014,
Bedford Institution of Oceanography, Dartmouth,
Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada,
IFM-Geomar-Institute, Kiel, Germany,
Anton de Kom University, Suriname
University of Georgia, Athens, USA.
A frequent reviewer for papers submitted to Palaios,
Marine Micropaleontology and Biogeochemistry, Professor
Wilson is the Caribbean correspondent for the popular
magazine Geology Today and an associate editor of the
prestigious Journal of Foraminiferal Research, focussing
on the biostratigraphy of the last 25 million years. He is
a Fellow of the Cushman Foundation for Foraminiferal
Research, and served as a Director of the Geological Society
of Trinidad and Tobago from 2008 – 2015, to which he is
a frequent technical presenter and for which he aided in
organising the 20th Caribbean Geological Conference in
2015. He has supervised graduate students working on
micropalaeontology, sedimentology and volcanology.
This literal and academic rock star is also frequently called
on by BHP Billiton regarding the use of micropalaeontology
in their oil and gas exploration and is currently playing a
large role in the commercialisation of micropalaeontological
services within his Department. These services are proving
to be in high demand. The Ministry of Energy and Energy
Industries has recognised the value of Wilson’s work,
awarding him a sizeable grant to investigate some of the
new techniques that he has developed. Furthermore, oil
giant BPTT has over the past decade repeatedly given him
funds to allow him to involve students in his research, thus
giving them a chance to experience the rigours, techniques
and excitement of research first hand.
Moving from Nevis to Trinidad in 1998, Professor
Wilson initially worked as a biostratigrapher in the
oil industry, using fossil foraminifera to tell the ages
of sedimentary rocks and the environments in which
they had been deposited. He joined the Petroleum
Geoscience Programme in 2003 to lecture in palaeontology,
sedimentology and stratigraphy, using his experience from
Nevis and industry. His research on microscopic fossils at
the UWI has concentrated on two aspects especially:
using them to decipher the geological history of Trinidad
during Miocene times (23 – 5 million years ago), when the
mountain building associated with the Northern Range
led to huge changes in sea level elsewhere on the island,
using them to unravel the impact of the Orinoco River on
the island’s geological history since the river first began
flowing towards the east about 7 million years ago.
Professor Wilson’s prolific research has arisen from his
ability to find and fill gaps in our knowledge while using a
minimum of equipment. During the 1940s through 1960s,
Trinidad was a global centre for work in micropalaeontology
(the study of microscopic fossils). With the nationalisation
of much of the oil and gas industry in the 1970s, however,
academic research in micropalaeontology here in Trinidad
and Tobago came to a virtual standstill but continued
elsewhere. There were thus many opportunities when
Wilson joined the UWI simply applying up-to-date
techniques to our local material. However, this was not all.
Each research project, while answering some questions,
raises other ones. Frequently answering these requires that
new techniques be developed. He has been instrumental
in developing some statistical techniques, such as the
Assemblage Turnover Index, that have deepened insights
into micropalaeontology worldwide. This is evidenced by
the interest his work has garnered online. So the next time
someone verbalises the dream of achieving rock star status,
be sure to ask if that’s of sedimentary rock and its fossils.
Professor Brent Wilson Achieves Rock Star Status
In celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) at The UWI, a new building was named after one of its early visionaries, Professor
Holman Williams. Professor Williams was instrumental in establishing the SVM and for over sixty years, demonstrated his commitment to the development of the veterinary
profession. This building is located near the Professor Steve Bennett building and was officially opened in early February. Now in his eighties, Professor Williams was present
for the occasion and is captured sharing the event with University senior staff.
SVM opens Holman Williams building
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