Finding the worms! Atoifi Health Research Group to conduct parasite surveys

Tommy Esau on Ngongosila looks across to Kwai

Kwai and Ngongosila are two small island atolls about two kilometres off the Eastern coast of Malaita, Solomon Islands. Kwai is about 500 metres long and 100 metres wide and Ngongosila is about 300 metres long and 100 metres wide. They are home to approximately 1,000 people.

Over the past 4 years researchers from the Atoifi Health Research Group have been conducting parasite surveys in villages around Uru Harbour. In some villages almost half of the residents have hookworm. The good news is that these results have been used as a base to improve sanitation in these villages - see

Chiefs and community leaders from Kwai and Ngonisila have been aware that their people are also likely to have gutworms. They have seen the change in villages around Uru Harbour and thus invited researchers from Atoifi Hospital to do similar research on their islands. Atoifi-based researchers conducted extensive community consultation in early 2014 to talk with leaders and village families about the survey and what sanitation is available. Most people use ‘toilet’ structures that reach over the sea. An important focus of the community consultation was how to proceed with the gutworm survey while respecting local beliefs and traditions. This week researchers from James Cook University, Central Queensland University and Tropical Health Solutions are joining their Atoifi counterparts on Kwai and Ngongosila to support this important health research.

Following the parasite survey, another research capacity strengthening workshop will be conducted at Atoifi Hospital. The workshop will be the third in a series funded through a WHO Tropical Diseases Research grant administered by Atoifi Hospital. Community leaders, hospital staff and local researchers will learn more about data analysis and scientific writing.

For more information, please contact Mr Humpress Harrington, Principal Investigator WHO-TDR project at:

Photo: Tommy Esau, Research Worker on Ngongosila looks across to Kwai (photo provided by T. Esau)

Funds awarded for research about Lymphatic Filariasis in the Solomons

A research grant has been awarded to Dr David MacLaren and other members of the Atoifi Health Research Group to determine if there is active Lymphatic Filariasis (LF) transmission in the Shortland Islands. There has been no comprehensive survey for LF in the Shortland Islands within living memory and thus the LF status of the Shortland Islands is unknown. Community leaders have reported signs and symptoms of LF are still present in some people in their villages. With the Islands' proximity to PNG, which has the highest rates of LF globally, these reports cannot be ignored.

This research will further strengthen the capacity of Solomon Islander researchers to investigate cases of LF, as documented in the article: Harrington H, Asugeni A, Jimuru C, Gwalaa J, Ribeyro E, Bradbury R, Joseph H, Melrose W, MacLaren D, Speare R. A practical strategy for responding to a case of lymphatic filariasis post-elimination in Pacific Islands. Parasites and Vectors 2013;6:218

Members of the Atoifi Health Research Group thank the College of Medicine and Dentistry at James Cook University, Australia for their support of this important research.

Image: Elephantiasis of right leg of 44 year old male from Alasi, Malaita, Solomon Islands as reported by Harrington et al in 2013.

Head lice research in the Pacific

Researchers from the Atoifi Health Research Group have recently published a review of literature about head lice in Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs). They found...nothing useful! The researchers sought literature to inform guidelines for managing head lice (pediculosis) in Solomon Islands, but found the available evidence inadequate. The authors recommend research be conducted by PICT researchers to generate evidence that will address this ubiquitous health issue in the Pacific.

You can download this article for free: Speare R, Harrington H, Canyon D, Massey PD. A systematic literature review of pediculosis due to head lice in Pacific Island Countries and Territories: What country specific research on head lice is needed? BMC Dermatology 2014;14:11.

Image: Head louse egg attached to a strand of hair Credit: Kevin Mackenzie, University of Aberdeen

First WHO-TDR Workshop Completed


In March 2014, the first WHO TDR-funded workshop was held at Atoifi Hospital in East Kwaio, Malaita, Solomon Islands. Sixty-seven health professionals, chiefs, community leaders and teachers attended the ‘Project Planning and Management for Health Research’ Workshop. Workshop sessions on theory were delivered in both day and night sessions. The morning sessions were delivered in the languages of Solomon Islands Pijin and Kwaio. This was to ensure that community leaders and mountain chiefs who had limited English (and were the majority of morning session participants) could fully participate. The night sessions, conducted in English, were primarily attended by health professionals and teachers.

Practical sessions were held in the afternoon, where research leaders and workshop participants worked on actual research projects utilising the project planning and management theory that had been discussed in the morning session. The research projects planned in the afternoon sessions included the ‘Elimination of Soil-transmitted Helminths one village at a time’ project and a new education research project about culturally appropriate education in the Kwaio Mountains.

Workshop topics included:

  • What is a research project?
  • Who benefits from research?
  • Developing aims and objectives for a research project
  • Managing project timelines
  • Health research ethics
  • Writing research methods/activities, outputs for research projects
  • Budgeting for research
  • Working in a research team
  • Monitoring and evaluation of research projects

For a comprehensive Report of this Workshop, please click here