Neglected tropical diseases

Professor Mohamed Mahroof Ismail
1931 – 2016

12 August 2016 | Geneva

It is with great sadness that we learnt of the passing on 13 June 2016 of Professor Mohamed Mahroof Ismail – a renowned Sri Lankan parasitologist whose research, mainly on lymphatic filariasis and soil-transmitted helminthiases, defined the global approach to controlling both groups of infections.

The pioneering work of Professor Ismail and his collaborators demonstrated that albendazole, combined with diethylcarbamazine citrate or ivermectin, dramatically reduces levels of microfilaraemia when administered for over two years. WHO has since adopted this combined therapy as part of its global strategy to eliminate lymphatic filariasis.

Besides research, Professor Ismail held many well-known positions, serving as a member of the Sri Lankan University Grants Commission; Chairman of the Board of Management of the Postgraduate Institute of Medicine of Sri Lanka; and as external examiner in Parasitology of the University of Malaya as well as the National University of Malaysia.

At the World Health Organization (WHO), he served as Chairman of the WHO Expert Committee on Soil-Transmitted Helminthiases and as a Member of the WHO Expert Committee on Lymphatic Filariasis and the WHO Technical Advisory Group for Lymphatic Filariasis. As a WHO Consultant to WHO’s country offices in Bangladesh and Egypt, he contributed enormously to revising both countries’ National Filariasis Control Programmes. He also served as Chairman of the South-East Asia Regional Programme Review Group for the elimination of lymphatic filariasis from 2002 to 2006.

Professor Ismail obtained his MBBS from the University of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and his PhD in Medical Parasitology from McGill University (Canada). He also spent a postdoctoral year at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (UK).

After his return to Sri Lanka, he worked at the Medical Research Institute for several years and became its Director in 1983. That same year, he joined the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Colombo as Professor of Parasitology and later served as Dean of the Faculty from 1994 to 1996.

In 2015 the Sri Lanka College of Microbiologists awarded Professor Ismail an honorary Fellowship in recognition of his excellent work. His mentorship and expertise will be greatly missed by the global public health community.

On behalf of the WHO Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases, I extend my heartfelt condolences to his wife Jezima and their children.

Dr Dirk Engels
WHO Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases