R. Geigy Foundation-Award 2014,
Country: Laos, born: 1976
“The award is a clear sign to politicians to invest more in the study of neglected diseases”
Somphou Sayasone operates outside the scientific mainstream, studying neglected worm infections that negatively affect the Laotian rural population. He spends weeks and months in remote areas, far away from modern laboratory facilities. Sayasone was one of the first scientists to detect the nematodes Echinochasmus japonicus and Capillaria philippinensis in Lao PDR. When people consume raw fish, the worms find their way into the human body where they affect the gastrointestinal tract. Untreated, an infection with Capillaria is fatal. Sayasone does not just look at tiny germs but also at the health system as a whole. Sayasone could show that more latrines led to fewer worm infections, for example. But establishing latrines is a difficult undertaking. Only a small proportion of the Laotian rural population can afford new latrines and running water.