R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Ciências da Saúde

Unidade de I&D

Unidade de Parasitologia e Microbiologia Médicas [HESC-LVT-Lisboa-74] visitada em 08/04/2008

Classificação: Very Good

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
This well organised and productive Unit has addressed directly the “weaknesses” identified in a previous visit. They have published widely and produced original new data although there is a strong thread of observational rather than hypothesis based research. The latter should be strengthened. Their general services to the community (maintenance of colonies of vectors of parasitic disease and support for the publication of a Portuguese language parasitology journal) continue – some of these are unique. The choice to publish a Portuguese journal in the field of Parasitology is understandable in view of the need to reach a Portuguese-speaking public distributed over the world. Of course such a publication does not substitute for the necessity of publishing in peer-reviewed international journals. It is clear that the teaching load is high and this does compromise the ability of the institute to develop internationally competitive research.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
Entomologia Médica [RG-X-HESC-LVT-Lisboa-74-1248]
There is a considerable effort in post-graduate education. The group monitors the spread of transmissible disease (West Nile virus had been found in a mosquito from the Algarve, Leishmaniasis in the Alentejo and the mosquito Aedes aegypti in Madeira). There are basic science investigations of good quality (on oocyte invasion in the mosquito gut, for example). The group may have an important role to play in the future as the climate changes. In particular their maintenance of four unique insect life cycles is very strong. These research advantages are not, however, being exploited to the full. There is a good record of publications in international journals although their impact is modest what is, however, typical for this research field. It is possible that the high teaching burden or a lack of relevant research expertise may be a block to full exploitation of these unique facilities. In many respects Portugal represents the front line in changes in insect ranges and this opportunity needs to be exploited more by this group.
Helmintologia Médica [RG-X-HESC-LVT-Lisboa-74-1247]
This group has a heavy teaching commitment but has done valuable work in identifying intermediate hosts, in monitoring parasitic disease in immigrants and in a more basic area, in the mechanisms of resistance to therapy. Students are heavily involved in research and do such work formally as part of their studies. The assessors had concerns that the management of this group was limited by narrow horizons set by assuming that most if not all research was to be done by masters and doctoral students. Research also seemed to be limited by observation as the main mode of research. There did not appear to be a clear understanding of the nature of, or need for, hypothesis based studies. Located in Lisbon, the group had potential to become world leaders in detection of T.cruzi infection in blood donation but this opportunity had not been seized. There appeared to be limited management of the research agenda and research time applied to important local or international questions. The publication record in peer-reviewed international journals is very limited. Consolidation of techniques might provide important synergies.
Micobacteriologia [RG-X-HESC-LVT-Lisboa-74-1251]
This is a strong group that is constructively outward looking and is internationally competitive. The group publishes regularly in peer-reviewed journals of high impact in the field. The work is focussed on efflux pumps in antibiotic resistance that is applied not only to mycobacteria but to other genera. Novel methods had been developed for identifying the presence of these pumps in real time. In addition there is a strong thread of tuberculosis drug development using drugs approved for other purposes – the phenothiazines. These drugs have been shown to inhibit macrophage function and to be effective in mouse models. Plans to develop clinical trials are proceeding with Dutch and Tanzanian collaborators.
Protozoários Oportunistas/VIH e outras protozooses [RG-X-HESC-LVT-Lisboa-74-1250]
Application of modern systems of characterisation of organisms is a sensible research; objective, it presents difficulties but offers useful information. The work on drug resistance in Pneumocystis is important. Work supported by the FCT in the past has been brought to successful conclusions. The group has a number of publications in peer-reviewed journals, some of which have a relatively high impact in the field of Infectious diseases (e.g. Emerg. Infect. Dis.) There are powerful International collaborations. It might be helpful for more national collaborations with others working on similar organisms at different universities.
Virologia [RG-X-HESC-LVT-Lisboa-74-1249]
Support from the pharmaceutical industry and from Japan has allowed this group to investigate viral diversity in HIV in Portugal. This work is of good quality in technical terms and is of public health importance – notably the work on drug resistance. Surprisingly there are no significant links between the groups working in the same area at the School of Pharmacy. The group has identified 6 strains of West Nile Virus and sequence some, demonstrating that recent introductions have come from countries surrounding the Mediterranean. The group publishes in specialized peer reviewed journals, some of which rank high (e.g. AIDS) in the list of main journals in the field of Virology.