M.G. Alexander Award in Tropical Infections

The M.G. Alexander Award recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to Tropical Infections in India. This award will be granted every alternate year in recognition of the contribution of significant research in the area of tropical infections, leading to improvement of health in India. This award has been instituted by the Manalil family of Kerala in memory of Dr. M.G. Alexander, a committed physician and humanitarian who was passionate about making a difference in the recognition, prevention and treatment of people with tropical infections, thereby improving their lives. The first recipient of this award was chosen in 2014 by a prestigious committee headed by Dr. K.C. Mammen and retired Chief Justice Mr. K.T. Thomas and then handed over to Clinical Infectious Diseases Society as an endowment.

The awardee will be invited to deliver a lecture at the annual meeting of Clinical Infectious Diseases Society, CIDSCON, and receive a citation, an honorarium of Rs. 50,000/ (fifty thousand rupees). Travel and lodging expenses to attend the meeting will be reimbursed as per CIDS policies.

Call for nomination may be found here.

Previous award winners

2017

Dr. Camilla Rodrigues

Dr. Camilla Rodrigues is Consultant Microbiologist and Chair of Hospital Infection Control Committee at PD Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai. Since completing her medical schooling and post graduation in Microbiology from the Armed Forces Medical College, Pune, she has worked at PD Hinduja hospital in 1987. She ahs since also received additional experience at CDC, Atlanta, University of Texas Medical School and St.Bartholemew's Hospital.

She has set up the sections of Mycobacteriology and Immuno Serology and Molecular Infectious disease at Hinduja hospital and upgraded the Microbiology department of Lab Medicine to a state of the art lab College of American Pathologists (CAP) accredited laboratory with additional subsections of Bacteriology, Mycology and Parasitology. The mycobacteriology lab is additionally accredited for both Liquid Culture identification and First line Drug Susceptibility Testing (DST ) as well as for the molecular Line Probe Assay by the National Mycobacteriology Accreditation System of Central TB Division Ministry of Health, Government of India.

She has been involved in studies with multiple agencies including the Department of Biotechnology and many pharma industry majors. She serves on many committees, both national and international, including the European Society of Clinical Microbiologists and Infectious Diseases and College of American Pathologists.

She has delivered numerous orations in various fora and has been a reviewer for various journals. She has more than 250 publications in international journals, in addition to book chapters.

In the field of tuberculosis, she Evaluated Interferon ɣ assays for T specific ESAT -6 / CFP10 antigens in latent Tb in Mumbai. Her work led to the detection of the predominance of the Beijing strain in the Drug Resistant TB in Mumbai. She subsequently developeda Reverse Line Blot Hybridisation (RLBH) assay for the detection of resistance to the first line anti tubercular drugs as streptomycin, isoniazid and rifampicin. She has subsequently developed the same for detection of resistance to fluoroquinolones and injectable second line drugs. She has evaluated and standardised various diagnostic phenotypic and genotypic assays for Mycobacterium tuberculosis detection such as bacteriophage assays, LAMP assays , diagnostic in house nested one tube PCR assays, multi target as well as nested PCRs , TMA, SSCP, MODS, pyrosequencing. Subsequently, she has worked on DNA fingerprinting methods as RFLP, spoligotyping, MIRU – VNTR etc for MTB. She has also developed PCR – Restriction fragment length polymorphism Analysis ( PRA) and an RLBH assay for speciation of Non Tuberculous Mycobacteria. She is currently performing MICs to 14 Anti tubercular drugs including delamanid and bedaquilineand attempting to correlate phenotypic DST with Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) in Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

This year's award is in recognition of her path breaking work in helping understand the tuberculosis treatment requirements and her contribution to the paradigm shift in diagnostics for tuberculosis.

Dr. Shyam Sundar

Dr. Shyam Sundar is Professor of Medicine at the Institute of Medical Sciences at Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi. Having completed his MBBS and his post graduation in Medicine from BHU, he joined his alma mater as faculty in 1981. Since then, he has held numerous responsibilities, including Honorary Program Director, Kala-azar Medical Research Center; Nodal officer, ART center; Program Director, center of excellence in HIV; Program Director, Infectious Diseases Research Laboratory; as well as Professor and Head of the department of Medicine. He has also received fellowships from the Royal College of Physicians, National Academy of Sciences, Indian Academy of Sciences, among others. He is also the recipient of the Anne Maurer Cecchini Award for 2010, and the IDSA AIDS fellowship. He has delivered numerous named orations in India over the last two decades, in recognition of his contribution to the field of infectious diseases. He is an author in numerous textbooks and an expert reviewer for many international journals. He has over 500 publications to his name to date. He is the recipient of numerous grants from national and international agencies, including the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, USA, the European Commission, the WHO, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Indian Council of Medical Research.

In the field of visceral leishmaniasis, he is the first to document large scale failure of the mainstay of therapy (antimony or Sb) in Bihar, and the emergence of Sb refractory leishmania parasites in Bihar state (Clin infect Diseases 2000).

He demonstrated that short-course liposomal amphotericin B is equally effective but less toxic than amphotericin B, and both are effective for treatment of antimony-resistant VL. This discovery has established that a single dose of liposomal amphotericin B is highly effective but less expensive as long-term therapy, opening the possibility of using this as a practical regimen for populations that are difficult to access.(NEJM 2010) After drastic reduction of price of liposomal amphotericin B for developing countries, this regimen currently forms the backbone of the treatment strategy in the VL elimination initiative in the Indian Subcontinent with remarkable decline in the incidence of VL.

He recently demonstrated efficacy of short course (8-11 days) combination treatment strategies, and one of the regimen combining miltefosine and paromomycin for 10 days is given in places where single dose AmBisome treatment is not feasible (Lancet 2011).

He led testing of the first oral drug for VL, Miltefosine, in 1996 leading to its approval in March 2002 in India. His studies showed that Miltefosine is effective for treatment of both children and adults (Lancet 1998, NEJM 1999, 2002). Treatment of Indian kalaazar is ahead of leishmaniasis treatment in other geographic regions. This is largely due to the efforts of Dr Sundar and his research team.

Dr Sundar was instrumental in the development of the rapid clinical diagnostic test using k39 antigen. This test has made it possible to diagnose kala-azar from a drop of finger prick blood with reasonable accuracy (Lasncet 1998). Today k39 strip test is being used extensively not only in the Indian subcontinent including Nepal and Bangladesh, but also worldwide. Dr Sundar continues to assess and investigate improved diagnostics for VL including detection of antigen in urine or parasite DNA in peripheral blood by PCR.

His major contribution to VL immuno-biology has been to show the anti-parasitic effect of IL-10 neutralization in spleen tissue from VL patients. The findings are the first to demonstrate a host protective effect of IL-10 neutralization in lesional tissue, and provide compelling evidence that overproduction of IL-10 directly contributes to the pathogenesis of human VL(JEM 2007). His research group further demonstrated the mechanism of T cells IL-10 regulation by IL-27 and IL-21 in human VL (JI 2011). His group has also been involved in establishing a whole blood assay (WBA) as an important immunological tool for identification of L. donovani expose healthy individuals and to study the immune regulation during active visceral leishmaniasis. (Immunobiology. 2014) This assay was not possible to develop earlier because of the unresponsiveness of purified peripheral blood mononuclear cells to antigen stimulation. Using this assay, for the first time it was demonstrated that the whole blood of active VL patients generate antigen-specific IFN-γ and IL-10 responses.

This year's award is in recognition of his pioneering work in visceral Leishmaniasis which has made him an undisputed global thought leader in this field.

2014

Dr. George M. Varghese

Dr. George M. Varghese was awarded the first M.G. Alexander Award in 2014 for his contributions to the field of Rickettsial Infections resulting in improved understanding of epidemiology, pathogenesis and management of this potentially life threatening illness, saving thousands of lives in India. Dr. Varghese is a Professor in the Department of Infectious Diseases at the Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore, where he also underwent his training.

In light of the enormous challenges and needs in India, he developed a special interest in tropical infections, studied at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and received a postdoctoral Fellowship in Infectious Diseases from Wayne State University, Detroit, USA. He has several areas of research interests in the specialty of Infectious Diseases and Tropical Infections. His research has resulted in early recognition and improved outcome of Rickettsial infections, particularly scrub typhus caused by Orientia tsutsugamushi. His work has been pivotal in the recognition of the widespread prevalence and varied presentations of scrub typhus in India. Subsequent to his work and advocacies, scrub typhus has been recognized as an important cause of acute undifferentiated febrile illness in India. He has received several grants from national and international agencies for his work, and his current research includes development of rapid diagnostic tests and an upcoming multinational randomized controlled trial for the treatment of severe scrub typhus.

Dr. Varghese has been working as a clinician, teacher and researcher at CMC, Vellore. He currently serves on several national committees, including the expert committee of the ICMR, has served as the General Secretary of the Clinical Infectious Diseases Society and is currently the Treasurer of the Society. His contributions have merited several awards and fellowships. Dr. Varghese is a sought-after teacher in several courses in Infectious Diseases, Global Health and Tropical Medicine.