PhD programme: Francis Sarkodie

Francis is a biomedical scientist working at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Ghana and is the technical head of laboratory services in the Transfusion Medicine Unit. He completed his MSc in Health Services Planning and Management at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana in 2001. His PhD project in association with T-REC looks at the survey of syphilis testing practices in Ghana, prevalence of syphilis and its infectivity of blood donors at KATH in Ghana, and quality assessment of syphilis testing with rapid diagnostic tests (RDT) in selected transfusion facilities in Ghana. Francis examines syphilis testing and test cross-reactions in Ghanaian blood donors and his research looks at the various algorithms used in the testing centres. Ultimately, he has developed a specific algorithm of syphilis testing (a novel strategy) to improve blood safety at KATH.

So far Francis has completed four PhD courses at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark: good reporting for scientific research, rapid assessment protocols and research, public health ethics and biostatistics. He gave a poster presentation of his preliminary findings at the 23rd International Society of Blood Transfusion congress in Amsterdam in June 2013 and an oral presentation at the 7th AfSBT CONGRESS 2014, VICTORIA FALLS, ZIMBABWE  30th July – 2nd August 2014 with the title ‘A New Screening Strategy for Syphilis Testing at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Kumasi, Ghana’.

In his PhD studies, Francis used an observational method in administering questionnaires to 149 blood transfusion testing sites in Ghana and conducted interviews via telephone and email. For quantitative data collection, he collected samples from 526 syphilis-reactive blood donors who had already been tested with syphilis RDT. These samples were tested again using Treponema pallidum Haemagglutination Assay (TPHA) and Rapid Plasma Reagin (RPR). All of the 526 samples were sent to Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark and tested further using two different methods which were considered the gold standard for confirmatory testing. Early results from 22 syphilis-reactive blood samples sent to Copenhagen University Hospital showed that 82 percent of the results were true positives and 27 percent showed potential active infectivity. This is a substantial proportion, which is significant to blood transfusion safety.

Currently, Francis has published 4 papers as part of his PhD studies of which 2 are in open access. He has completed his data collection and analysis, and about to complete thesis writing which will be submitted for viva in due course.

Francis says that research capacity building in Africa is important because there are many emerging diseases linked with transfusion that need to be investigated and supported with evidence and research. If more African scientists are trained in research, it will be possible to solve the most relevant scientific problems. Francis emphasises that African scholars need to receive scholarships and support to enhance their research skills and attend international conferences so that they can understand what is happening in other parts of the world. He says, “Continuous education is the key. If people are more educated, there would be greater understanding of how to solve health problems”.

 

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