David Mabey, Professor of Communicable Diseases and Head of the Department of Clinical Research at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, has been selected to receive the Prince Mahidol Award 2019 in the field of Public Health.
Professor David Mabey is a leading physician whose work has made a huge impact on the health of people in Asia and Africa. With colleagues at LSHTM, he showed that mass treatment with a single oral dose of the antibiotic azithromycin can eliminate trachoma, the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness.
Based on this evidence, the manufacturers of the antibiotic agreed to donate it to the affected communities. More than 800 million doses of azithromycin have been administered since 2013.
As a result of this, the global burden of trachoma has been significantly reduced. In 1995, WHO estimated there were 150 million cases of active trachoma, a number which has fallen to just over 21 million people living with active trachoma and 13 countries have achieved elimination goals set by WHO.
Professor Mabey said: “It is a great honour to be receiving this award, but could not have been achieved this without my team at LSHTM and colleagues in Africa. I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to this vital work.”
Professor Peter Piot, Director of LSHTM, said: “Many congratulations to David, this award is fully deserved. His expertise, enthusiasm and tireless work on trachoma has proved life-changing for millions of people throughout Africa and Asia.”
Trachoma is often passed from child to child, or between mother and child, and is often first seen in infancy or childhood. According to WHO, the active disease is present in over 50% of children aged 1-9 years old in some areas of Ethiopia and South Sudan, and repeat infections throughout life can lead to irreversible blindness.
Following on from their earlier research, Professor Mabey co-authored a study with Professor Robin Bailey showing that twice yearly mass treatment with azithromycin reduced mortality of infants in Africa aged 1-6 months or under 5 years old by 25% and 13%, respectively.
The Prince Mahidol Award was established in 1992 to commemorate the 100th birthday anniversary of Prince Mahidol of Songkla, who is recognised in Thailand as ‘The Father of Modern Medicine and Public Health of Thailand’. Professor Anne Mills, Deputy Director & Provost of LSHTM, received the Prince Mahidol Award for outstanding contributions in the field of medicine in 2009. Professor Peter Piot, Director of LSHTM, received the Prince Mahidol Award in the field of public health in 2013, together with Dr Jim Yong Kim, former president of the World Bank. Prof Mabey will receive the award at the Prince Mahidol Award Conference in Bangkok on 30 January 2020.
Image on top: Professor David (front row, 2nd from right)/Image courtesy: LSHTM