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  • Saraina Ulysse

Unleashing Hope: Daudi's Courageous Battle Against Cutaneous Leishmaniasis  

On February 20th, we joined a team of entomologists from ICIPE and KEMRI that were collecting sand flies in Gilgil Sub-County. That evening we made our way down to Utut Forest where we would set a total of ten traps, around the housing compound, in bushes and rocks where sandflies typically stay. Our team was led by Daudi—Swahili for David, a local who is deeply knowledgeable about cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) and the various locations best for trapping sandflies. We set traps around his compound: in the house, near the animal shed, in the rocks behind his house.  

Daudi single-handedly pioneered our team around the forest and into a cave to set traps. He was very keen to set up traps in areas that are reservoirs for sandflies. He moved about the cave effortlessly and fearlessly to ensure that we would be able to trap as many sandflies as possible. With his tremendous help and determination, the team caught so many sandflies for their analysis.  

In 2003, Daudi had gotten CL and a year later, his young twin sons also contracted the disease. Though the twins could continue and finish treatment, dowdy deterred from treatment due to the immense pain it caused him. The disease has caused partial disfigurement to Daudi’s with his cheek and upper lip area being the most affected by the disease. The twin boys, who are now young adults, also have scars from having CL on their faces.  

 Though the disease has forever left its mark on Daudi and his family, he has not allowed that to stop him from fighting back. He has become a symbol of hope and fearlessness and his experience with CL has only fueled his desire and commitment to ending this disease once and for all. Daudi is a father, a fighter, and most of all a champion. Aside from helping the vector team identify locations for trapping and setting those traps up, Daudi has become a reference for locals to identify if the lesion they have is CL or something else. When a person comes to him with a lesion, he presses on the area to see if a liquid will come out and if it does, the person is recommended to seek treatment.  

A few weeks prior to this trip to Gilgil, I was able to witness the treatment for CL patients in Gitare. It was extremely hard to watch young children, teenagers and even elders receive the injection into their lesions as they cry and wince in pain. For many, the pain of the injections deters them from continuing treatment, that was especially true for Daudi. His experience with the treatment for CL reinforces the need for a better treatment option, for which he suggested the development of an oral medicine. 

Daudi’s story is an inspiration and crucial example of the need to pioneer champions to eradicate neglected diseases. His contributions to the team are insurmountable. He has not allowed the disease to overcome him but rather is dedicated to defeating CL. The experiences of Daudi, his twin sons and others who have had the disease reinforce the need for more research and development of innovative technologies to combat CL and end it once and for all. Daudi’s fearlessness is inspiring and is a characteristic that we all need to learn in the fight to end neglected tropical diseases.  

Our team after setting traps within the forest and in the areas within and surrounding Daudi's homestead

Daudi, in purple, looking for locations to set traps in Utut Forest

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