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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.

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Journeys of perseverance

Discover how an infectious disease led one man to become one of the most prestigious researchers in Brazil, building an advanced lab and training students to follow in his path.

The scientist and the challenge

Transmitted by Triatominae, a subfamily of insects responsible for transmission, Chagas disease affects more than 6-8M people in mostly tropical climates around the world. Professor Silva’s own family struggled with Chagas disease, which inspired his research focus. The Professor’s main challenge when first starting out was that there were no proper means for conducting his research.

The perseverance moments

When Professor Silva started his lab, a lack of research materials and experienced researchers were constant challenges. With no major funding available, the creation of an animal room and the continuous training of students became his primary concerns ― and what motivated him to keep going.

The solution

After setting a name for himself, it became easier for Professor Silva to acquire the proper research tools and more effectively train students. He was also able to improve the flow and filtering of critical information by extending discussions with other researchers in the infectious diseases field beyond the borders of Brazil.

The results and next steps

Professor Silva’s perseverance opened doors to more questions, more answers and a lot more research. Through teaching the next generation of researchers and by developing a properly equipped lab, the Professor built the perfect environment for his students to work in and advance the science.

About ScienceDirect

How the Professor started to use ScienceDirect and how it played a key role in his research career.


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