If you are traveling to the distant African archipelago of Bijagos, you can expect to find the tropical paradise of pristine beaches and the lush tropical jungle.
But their islands are not only beautiful, they also are natural laboratory which provides a unique scenario for studying possible remedies for the most deadly diseases on the planet.
This group of 18 islands and 70 islets located along the coast of Guinea-Bissau, in West Africa, home to 30,000 people with their own language and unique traditions.
It also deals with wildlife, including the sea waterfall and the giant sea turtle growing in this isolated corner.
But these quiet lands also have many serious illnesses. Life expectancy in Guinea Bissau is about 60 years old and is believed to be in Bijagos Islands That number is much smaller.
Malaria, a serious eye infection called trachoma, elephant i intestinal worms There are some problems in this area.
However, the islands can also keep a secret in the struggle against the same evil of those who are tortured.
Medical researchers have been working in this archipelago for many years to see if some diseases can be solved on some islands.
The reason why the islands function as a natural laboratory his remote figure.
Although it hinders some of your daily activities, this is a very useful feature during the attempt to eradicate the disease.
Water creates a natural barrier that allows you to buy different disease control methods There is no risk of cross contamination between test scenarios.
In continental areas, people can enter and leave test areas, contaminating them, and complicating the task of determining causes and consequences.
Island areas, on the other hand, allow for careful and accurate measurement of the impact of each intervention.
Although there are many archipelagos in the world, few are close enough to allow them to work in them, but at the same time far enough to minimize interference during the experiment.
There are also several islets of these features that are affected by so many diseases.
Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) were initially focused on a traumatic, contagious disease that turned the tabs indoors. It affects 1.9 million people worldwide and, globally, is the leading cause of blindness you cann prevent.
Trachoma can be transmitted if infected hands, clothing or flies come in contact with the eyes. This is caused way bacterium chlamydia and often spread in highly populated areas that do not have enough sanitary facilities.
The disease is present in 42 countries, and at one point on the islands there were villages where all children suffered.
Dr. Anna Last, from LSHTM, identified areas of high risk of trachoma before treatment whole communities with antibiotics to terminate the transmission cycle.
Samples that had been collected by scars inside the eyelids before and after treatment helped researchers to detect early stage illness. It is also used to identify the genetic type of infection.
This could improve the understanding of what happens after eradication of illness at the local level.
If it comes back, it can be determined from it genetic soybean if it comes from an external source or if it reappears within that community.
The results were unbelievable. When the last one started to work, 25% of people on the islands had a disease. Now only 0.3% of people suffer from it.
This is not just below the thresholds of eliminating the World Health Organization (WHO), which means that the disease is almost eradicated islands, but that the techniques now developed could benefit from the world in general.
How to get to the island of Bijagos
- From time to time it attracts unsustainable explorers, but is not a typical holiday destination.
- Islands can be obnoxious, especially in the rainy season, when storms can come out of nothing.
- The journey from the continent lasts for at least five hours on a small ferry full of people and animals.
- There are several health centers. The largest is on the main island of Bubaque, and medical materials are limited.
- Even though medical professionals provide the best care, sometimes, distance and inaccessibility sometimes make it difficult.
Trachoma is not the only problem faced by people from Bijagos and now works on other diseases that exist on the islands.
Our current focus is on malaria, which spreads when female mosquitoes infected with parasite bite man. Initially this leads to that symptoms such as fever and headache but others appear more serious. Malaria kills to nearly half a million people worldwide every year.
Given the prevalence of malaria on the islands, where one in four people are infected, it is not surprising that there are mosquitoes that are very good in transmitting this disease.
We were worried we found out that some were resistant to insecticides.
This means that the most common forms of fighting malaria – setting up mosquito nets on beds and spraying houses with insecticides – would not work, which means that an alternative strategy needs to be set up.
Soon it will be approved new medicines, which is transmitted to the mosquito through the bloodstream of the victim when bitten.
Previous treatments tend to attack malaria parasites in the human body. But this drug attacks the mosquito and malaria parasites, shortening its life span.
In this test, all islands receive standard control tools, such as mosquito nets. Some, islands with "intervention", will also receive medication. The other "control" islands will not do it.
He was a local island team trained in medical skillshow to take blood samples and treat them to detect malaria.
They also learned how to collect and identify mosquitoes, with the help of Ba, people from our field team who hopes to become the first entomologist or island specialist on the island.
It remains to be seen whether this medicine will permanently remove malaria on the islands.
In any case, it is likely that lessons learned from our studies will affect far beyond the distant Bijagos Islands.
Each of our studies helps to find out more about the disease itself and how it transpires, which shapes future research.
On the islands this can be done faster, with greater control and precision. We can see what effects are in a defined area that reaches the entire population.
The LSHTM project will continue in Bijagos for at least five years, and in the meantime its findings will likely be used to address major diseases such as malaria and elsewhere.
*About this piece
The BBC commissioned this analysis to a specialist working for an external organization. A two-year study on the removal of infectious diseases on the Bijagos Islands was funded by the British research and innovation organization.
Professor James Logan is head of the Department of Disease Control at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Follow him on Twitter @ProfJamesLogan.
Text eDITadmired Eleanor Lawrie.