NBSZ makes history in EU-T-Rec research

Mapako, T. 2016 [Groningen, Netherlands]: University of Groningen. 291 p. Scientific. Doctoral Thesis

National Blood Service Zimbabwe (NBSZ) senior employee who joined the service in 2001, Dr Tonderai Mapako, successfully defended his PhD thesis on Friday December 9 last year.

Dr Mapako and Dr Nyasha Mafirakureva from Zimbabwe were the first to successfully defend their thesis making history for Zimbabwe. Ghana students are yet to defend their thesis. The doctoral thesis focused on the risk modelling of transfusion transmissible infections.

NBSZ in collaboration with Africa Society for Blood Transfusion (AfSBT), Ghana Blood Transfusion Services, Groningen University (Netherlands), Copenhagen University (Denmark) and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine were beneficiaries to the first ever European Union four-year funded research project for blood transfusion in Africa, T-REC Project. The project was launched in October 2011 by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health & Child Care Brigadier General (Dr) Gerald Gwinji.

Blood transfusion can be a life-saving medical treatment, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. However, there is inherent risk of transfusion transmissible infections (TTIs), which can be minimised by appropriate blood donor selection and testing of blood. Despite these safety interventions, zero-risk is not achievable because of the remaining (residual) risk, hence the need for risk modelling as done by Dr Mapako.

In the thesis Dr Tonderai Mapako explored the HIV dynamics in the general and blood donor populations in Zimbabwe. This allows the identification of low-risk populations for blood donation purposes. He used three methods for the estimation of the risk of transmitting HBV, HCV and HIV.

Comparable results were obtained and this gives confidence on their use for blood safety decision-making in Zimbabwe. The high HBV burden in Zimbabwean blood donors was a striking result and followed by HIV and HCV. Globalisation is presenting a challenge due to travelling blood donors to risky areas. Dr Tonderai Mapako developed a novel method to estimate the risk of TTIs by travellers, which enables authorities in blood services settings to proactively assess the traveller’s TTIs risk on their domestic blood supply.

A cost-effectiveness analysis of introducing individual donation nucleic acid of HBV, HCV and HIV testing in addition to serologic testing in Zimbabwe was conducted in collaboration with another PhD graduate. The cost-effectiveness results were unfavourable on the additional testing option due to cost constraints, however, compared to high-income countries the cost-effectiveness is rather good. The thesis results indicate the need for more risk modelling studies in resource-constrained settings to optimise blood safety.

About Dr Tonderai Mapako

Tonderai Mapako is a bio-statistician who was born on 19 June 1976 in Murambinda, Buhera, Zimbabwe. He obtained his secondary (1993) and higher school (1995) education from St Faith’s High School, Rusape, Zimbabwe. He obtained his Bachelor of Science Degree double major in Statistics and Biological Sciences from University of Zimbabwe in 1999. Upon his graduation, he became a high school teacher (Mathematics and Biology) at Nyashanu High school in Buhera until March 2001. Thereafter, he joined the National Blood Service Zimbabwe (NBSZ) from April 1 2001 as a research and data officer. He left NBSZ in September 2002 to pursue his MSc in Applied Statistics (2003) and MSc in Bio-statistics (2004) at the University of Hasselt (formerly, Limburgs Universitair Centrum), Belgium. At the end of 2004, he returned back to NBSZ to pursue his research and data analysis activities and was promoted to executive officer – research, development and data management (2007) and subsequently to current position of planning, information and research manager since 2011.

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