Published: 15-04-2024 09:34 | Updated: 15-04-2024 13:41

Meet Dr Joseph Kabatende working with regulatory system strengthening in eastern and southern Africa

Joseph Kabatende in lab clothes.
Joseph Kabatende, former PhD student at Karolinska Institutet.

Dr Joseph Kabatende is a Health Products and Regulatory Systems Specialist working for the WHO. He completed his PhD in 2023 from Karolinska Institutet, Sweden after defending his doctoral thesis entitled “Pharmacovigilance of Mass Drug Administration for Control of Schistosomiasis and Soil Transmitted Helminths in Rwanda".

Establishing the Rwanda food and drugs authority 

Dr. Joseph Kabatende holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in pharmacy (M. Pharm) from the University of the Western Cape, Republic of South Africa, and a PhD in Medical Science (Clinical Pharmacology) degree from Karolinska Institutet. He is currently working with the World Health Organization regional office for Africa (WHO/AFRO), headquartered in Congo Brazzaville as the Technical Officer in charge of health products regulatory system strengthening for eastern and southern African countries. 

"My main responsibilities as a Health Products and Regulatory Systems Specialist are supporting and strengthening regulatory systems in countries/Member States of the African region, with a focus on countries in Eastern and Southern Africa" says Dr Kabatende.

Prior to his current role, Dr. Kabatende initiated and facilitated the establishment of Rwanda Food and drugs authority (Rwanda FDA) and initiated its journey to maturity level three (ML3) in November 2018. He equally played a key role in the establishment of AMA treaty, AMA ratification process and spearheaded the technical drafting and finalization of the Rwanda BID for hosting AMA.Dr. Kabatende a PROFORMA project student between 2018-2023, was also the national principal investigator representing Ministry of Health (MoH), Kigali Rwanda.

Dr Joseph Kabatende.
Dr Joseph Kabatende. Photo: Private

PhD research- Mass drug administration in Rwanda

"My PhD project focused on pharmacovigilance of medicines used in Mass Drug Administration (MDA) for the control and elimination of schistosomiasis and soil transmitted helminths (STH) campaigns in Rwanda. The PhD was part of the PROFORMA project which is still ongoing since 2018 lead and coordinated by Professor Eleni Aklillu. The aim was to actively investigate the safety and efficacy of MDA drugs. The project equally studied the infection prevalence and investigated the effect of pharmacogenetic variations of drugs plasma concentrations and safety outcomes for the study population". 

Soil transmitted helminths remain high

"The burden of soil transmitted helminths is still worrisome despite a decade of program implementation with high MDA coverage in selected study districts and schools. In my PhD research, study outcomes of various sub-studies indicated that irrespective of several rounds of mass albendazole by the national NTD program, the prevalence of STH remains high with Trichirus trichiura (T. trichiura) being reported to be the most common specie. Evidently, T. trichiura indicated no response to the preventive chemotherapeutic interventions. Active safety surveillance of mass praziquantel (PZQ) co-administered with albendazole revealed that one in five SAC who participated in the study experienced transient- mild to moderate Adverse Events (AEs) and some reported fewer severe AEs cases post- MDA. Similarly, single-dose PZQ is reported to still be effective against intestinal schistosomiasis. Both preventive chemotherapeutic drugs used in MDA were reported to be safe". 

Need for intensification of control strategies

"We reported an overall STH prevalence of 77.7% amongst SAC. This remains higher, and we recommend that, intensification of control strategies including access to clean water, hygiene and sanitation, regular MDA assessment and a multisectoral coordination approach that involves all stakeholders would contribute the control and elimination of the that brings together policymakers, researchers, regulators, the national NTD program, morbidity caused by STH in Rwanda. Our findings contribute to the global urgent need to regularly conduct safety and efficacy evaluation on MDA drugs administered to all risk population with no prior infection status and signals the need for a better preventive chemotherapeutic alternatives and stronger stakeholder collaborative mechanism".

Joseph Kabatende defended his PhD Thesis on May 16, 2023, at Karolinska University Hospital Huddinge, Department of Laboratory Medicines, Division of Clinical Pharmacology.

The PROFORMA project is part of the EDCTP2 programme supported by the European Union (grant number CSA2016S-1618 – PROFORMA).