KUALA LUMPUR: A research team from the Institute of Medical Research (IMR) that made a breakthrough in wound healing with the use of maggots has been conferred the Dr Lee Jong-Wook Memorial Prize for Public Health at the 71st World Health Assembly (WHA).
The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland made the announcement on Friday (May 25), said Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
The WHA president conferred the prize to lead researcher Dr Nazni Wasi Ahmad, from the IMR, for her exemplary contributions in Maggot Debridement Therapy (MDT).
It is a type of biotherapy using live, sterile fly larvae or maggots in non-healing wound of a human or animal to remove dead cells and reduce bacterial contamination of the wound and stimulate healing, he said.
“It is a safe, effective and affordable alternative treatment that is available at any time and in any healthcare setting, mainly primary healthcare facilities, to treat diabetic foot ulcers.” said Dr Noor Hisham in a statement.
The others in the team were Dr Lee Han Lim, Teh Chien Huey, and Suhana Othman of the Medical Entomology Unit at the IMR in Kuala Lumpur and Dr Harikrishna K. Ragavan of the Wound Care Unit in Kuala Lumpur Hospital, he said.
“It is a great honour and pleasure for the biomedical researchers from the IMR to have received the conferment of such a superlative award for unprecedented scientific achievement in Malaysia,” he said.
Established in 2008, the Dr Lee Jong-wook Memorial Prize for Public Health, a prestigious award, rewards those who have made an outstanding and significant contribution to public health.
Overall, 12 candidatures were received by the selection panel this year.
Since 2003, the research team has developed and patented methods of sterilising the maggots of a local strain of the blow fly Lucilia cuprina and successfully demonstrated the effectiveness of using these sterile maggots to debride intractable diabetic and other wounds, without any untoward and undesirable side effects.
“The rate of limb amputation in these patients was also substantially reduced,” said Dr Noor Hisham
The team received a research grant from the Intensification of Research in Priority Areas programme (2002-2004) and the Major Research Grant from the Ministry of Health from 2006 to 2008, he said.
Subsequently, the IMR envisioned the commercialisation potential of MDT and secured a grant from the Malaysian Technology Development Cooperation (MTDC) for small-scale deployment of MDT to patients in the hospitals, he said.
MDT is currently practised in health clinics in most districts in Malaysia, including hard-to-reach areas in Sabah and Sarawak.
The efforts achieved the ultimate goal of primary healthcare by the WHO, namely, reducing exclusion and social disparities in health and organising health services around people’s needs and expectations, he said.