Maganga Burton Sambo

Published: 1 May 2018

Maganga is a third year PhD student studying epidemiology in relation to rabies, which is listed by WHO as a ‘neglected zoonotic disease’.

Maganga Burton Sambo Article picCan you tell us a little about your background?

Previously, I studied at the University of Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania, where I received my BA in Geography and the Environment. Immediately after completion of my undergraduate studies, I was hired by Dr Katie Hampson to work on a study examining rabies in South-East Tanzania. That opportunity first exposed me to research science. The work not only helped me to develop my career, but also assisted in reducing the impact of rabies within the community. I had the chance to do my master’s here at the University of Glasgow. It is a privilege and a great opportunity for me to continue contributing to the ongoing effort to tackle rabies.

What can you tell us about the importance of your PhD project?
Rabies has major impacts on human and animal health in many resource-limited locations worldwide. Every year at least 55,000 people are estimated to die from rabies and more than 10 million are treated with post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). Over 99% of human rabies deaths occur in resource-limited settings. The vast majority of these preventable deaths are due to bites from domestic dogs. Although human rabies deaths are 100% preventable through delivery of prompt PEP to bite victims, these measures are not accessible to many poor rural victims, most of whom subsist on less than US$1.25/day.
Mass vaccination is known to be the cornerstone for effective control of canine rabies. Coverage of 70% needed to eliminate the disease. Rabies has been eliminated from industrialized countries through mass vaccination and the continent-wide elimination of canine rabies from the Americas is now within reach. Several pilot studies have identified that 70% vaccine coverage can be achieved in different settings in Africa and Asia. The major research questions now are focused on how to implement, monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of large-scale mass dog vaccination campaigns, particularly in the most resource-limited countries, where progress has been slowest.

What is the focus of your research?
My PhD has four main aims, each of which should contribute a chapter to my thesis. My first chapter compares methods for assessing dog rabies vaccination coverage in rural and urban communities in Tanzania. The second is on estimating the size and determinants of the dog population, as well as its distribution across different regions of Tanzania. The third chapter evaluates the implementation of large-scale mass dog vaccination campaigns conducted across 28 districts in Southern Tanzania through a Gates-funded/WHO-coordinated control project. I will evaluate the coverage, completeness, and timing of the large-scale dog vaccination programmes. Lastly, I aim to quantify the impacts of these dog vaccinations on reducing bite incidence.

Why did you decide to do your PhD in Glasgow?
After completing my MSc, I went back in Tanzania to continue working on rabies. Nonetheless, I hoped that I might return to Glasgow to do my PhD. IBAHCM has much more to offer to PhD students, such as social activities, research facilities and expertise in disease ecology – these factors encouraged me to return!

What do you find most interesting about your work?
I work in over 28 districts in Tanzania; that work keeps me very busy. I enjoy being directly involved in prevention and control of rabies in my country in a way that truly makes a difference. Each year I have been involved in several stakeholders’ meetings, chiefly with livestock officers, to ensure the overall success of vaccination campaigns. Seeing the research making an impact at a higher level is a fantastic opportunity.

What has been the most positive aspect so far?
I have been keen to share my passion for rabies control with a wider audience, so I am happy that my first chapter has been published and has got three citations. I am very pleased to be a part of IBAHCM and I am working hard as doctoral researcher to represent IBAHCM through my own publications and other research outputs. I’m thrilled that my research is been recognised and my findings are being directly incorporated into ongoing vaccination campaigns, both within and outside of Tanzania. Here, you can see my contribution to science: (

What has been the most challenging aspect so far?
As an international PhD student, I am facing challenges every day; particularly with regards to data management and analysis. Dealing with these challenges develops me as a person and makes me better at carrying out my PhD. One of my big challenges is ensuring that I meet the deadline of submission for my thesis, otherwise I will have to search for additional funding. 

What advice would you give to anyone doing or considering PhD?
Chat to other PhD students (not only from your department) about their experiences. Their minds are on fire and they’ll be happy to assist and answer any questions.

Tell us about your future plans.
I am very eager to return to Tanzania with plenty of expertise. I want to continue working on rabies, as I want to make my mark in the war against rabies in sub-Saharan Africa. However, I am enthusiastic to keep my affiliation with IBAHCM!


Don’t miss Maganga’s talk (“Measuring, Monitoring and Improving Dog Vaccination Programmes to Control and Eliminated Rabies”) at the PhD Seminar Series on Friday 6th April at 4pm in LT2 of the Graham Kerr Building.

First published: 1 May 2018