Journey of Perseverance

The first chapter of our Journeys of Perseverance series is about a researcher in Brazil who continues to search for a cure for Chagas disease, which is transmitted by insects found in mud and straw throughout the Americas. Detection of Chagas is difficult, and if left untreated with prescription medications, it fatally damages the heart, and the nervous and digestive systems.

Story #1

Chagas disease: the origin


What is Chagas disease?

It is estimated that 6-8 million people worldwide are infected with Chagas and that 65-100 million people are at risk of becoming infected, according to this freely available article on ScienceDirect.

Chagas disease remains a serious medical and social problem throughout the Americas, and is becoming an emerging concern in non-endemic countries as a result of population movement, transfusion of infected blood or organs, and congenital transmission. (Sesti-Costa et al., 2014) Recent findings have underscored the abundance of the causative organism, T. Cruzi found primarily in rural farming communities and poor urban areas. Due to a lack of safe and effective drugs, there is an urgent need for novel therapeutic options for treating Chagas disease. (Ogindo et al., 2017)

Some cultural customs, such as preparation of artisanal juices (Alarcón de Noya et al., 2010) and the consumption of contaminated sugar cane and aҫai (Valente et al., 1999) have contributed to the food-borne transmission Chagas disease according to this open access article on ScienceDirect.

The researcher

João Santana da Silva was born in Potirendaba, São Paulo. He holds an undergraduate degree in biological sciences, and an MSc and a PhD in biochemistry, all from the Ribeirão Preto Medical School at the University of São Paolo. In 1981 Dr. Silva was appointed a professor of immunology in the Biological Science Institute, USP. He moved to Ribeirão Preto Medical School one year later, becoming full professor in 2004. Between 1989 and 1992, Dr. Silva was a research fellow at Seattle Research Institute, Seattle, USA. During his career, Dr. Silva has published over 300 papers, with more than 9,800 citations. His h-index is 54.

Dr. Silva’s honors include President of the Brazilian Society of Immunology (2010-2011) and of FIPASE (Institution of Science and Technology, 2009-2012), and coordinator of Biological Sciences III area of CAPES (2007 to 2014). He is a current member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, President of the Immunology Area of Brazilian Council of Science (CNPq), and President of Graduation Commission of Ribeirão Preto Medical School. In 2015, he was honored as one of the winners of the CAPES-Elsevier Award.

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The work that I’m more proud of is to train a lot of students, to give them opportunity to work, to think, to develop science.

Dr. João Santana da Silva