Each year American Society for Microbiology (ASM) recognizes some renowned scientists for their outstanding contribution in microbiology. This year Professor Samir Kumar Saha, Ph.D., Head of the Department of Microbiology of Dhaka Shishu Hospital and Executive Director of Child Health Research Foundation (CHRF) got awarded for research in clinical microbiology. This is a great honor as a distinguished scientist for research accomplishments that form the foundation for important applications in clinical microbiology.
ASM manages an array of awards that feature leaders in the world of microbial sciences who are recognized and nominated by their peers across the board. Academic, clinical, service and leadership awards, among others, as well as grants and fellowships are an essential component of ASM member excellence and recognition.
ASM honored distinguished clinical microbiologist Samir Saha for outstanding research accomplishments leading to or forming the foundation for important applications in clinical microbiology for 2017. This is a lifetime achievement award and the ceremony was held during the ASM Microbe Meeting, June 1-5, 2017, New Orleans, USA.
Dr. Saha, who is a member of Pneumococcal Awareness Council of Experts (PACE) is globally very renowned for his work in diseases like pneumonia, meningitis, typhoid. He is also a member of scientific committee of World Society of Pediatrics Infectious Diseases (WSPID) and a council member of International Society for Infectious Diseases (ISID). He is the Chair of the Steering Committee of Coalition Against Typhoid (CAT).
Dr. Samir Saha is the Head of the Microbiology Department of Dhaka Shishu Hospital (DSH) in Bangladesh and the Executive Director of the Child Health Research Foundation (CHRF). He has devoted his life to bridging the gap between the developing world with high child mortality and the developed world with state-of-the-art diagnostics for infectious diseases.
With the motto of breaking the vicious cycle of “limited resources and evidence-gap”, he started building a team. He has now established a network of multiple clinical microbiology laboratories with nested research programs. His team of over 100 members is known for their constant innovations to maximally utilize extremely limited resources, gradually implementing modern techniques and providing the best services possible.
Dr. Saha leads a group of microbiologists, physicians and researchers who explore the root causes of the diseases and offer innovative and cost effective treatments guideline for hospital and community set up. They also work on how to minimize antimicrobial resistance which is a threat to the treatment of diseases. They showed through their research that community-based treatment with the first line of antibiotics was as effective as the expensive latest group of antibiotics.
They perform surveillance on invasive childhood diseases like pneumonia, meningitis, typhoid and neonatal sepsis, generating data on infectious diseases mainly caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenza, Salmonella Typhi/Paratyphi, etc. Findings from his team have contributed to a better understanding of the burden of such diseases and have had major impact on public health policies.
Their findings on H. influenzae type b and S. pneumoniae advocacy played a significant role in the introduction of vaccines in Bangladesh. Their greatest contribution was introducing vaccines for meningitis and pneumonia in the expanded program of immunization (EPI) in Bangladesh by providing evidence on the diseases. Their research evidence is not only being used in Bangladesh, but also in other countries in the South Asia. As Dr. Saha told — he did not keep his work confined in clinical microbiology but expanded in the field of public health.
Dr. Saha was the Principal Investigator of the multi-site and multi-country project on Aetiology of Neonatal Infection in South Asia (ANISA) project, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It was one of the largest studies on childhood infections. The study involved 100,000 and 80,000 children in several countries of South Asia. The project determined the population-based incidence, etiology and antibiotic resistance profiles of community-acquired young infant infections in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan using community-based surveillance and standard and new diagnostic tests. The project also aimed to identify risk factors for acquiring laboratory-confirmed infections and to describe clinical predictors of laboratory confirmed infections. ANISA project was a major international effort to determine the causes of community-based neonatal infections.
Dr. Saha’s team also works on innovative rapid diagnostic tools for patient services, data validation and impact study of newly introduced vaccines. They also provide support in monitoring and training of several carriage studies of pneumococcus (bacteria causing pneumonia) in India.
Dr. Saha, who is an associate at the Johns Hopkins University, an adjunct scientist at the icddr,b, a member of the National Committee for Immunization Policies of the Government of Bangladesh, WHO’s laboratory Technical Working Group for Invasive Bacterial Vaccine Preventable Diseases (IB-VPD) and iTAG for strategic review of the IB-VPD network has published more than 150 papers in peer-reviewed journals.
Dr. Saha emphasized on the rational use of antibiotics to reduce antimicrobial resistance which is the next big threat for the treatment of childhood illness. He urged physicians and patients to be cautious using the antibiotics.
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Dr. Tareq Salahuddin is a Special Correspondent of News Hour. He is a Public Health Professional working in development sector. Dr. Tareq, a medical graduate, is a member of Public Health Association of Bangladesh and a Member of the Governing Council of World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA), a J2J Fellow on HIV/AIDS and a member of the International AIDS Society. To know more about Dr. Tareq, please visit his personal website or simply Google his name.