Oriol Mitjà Villar, 2013 FPdGi Scientific Research Award

Awarded for his exemplary dedication in the field of treating infectious diseases endemic in developing countries and for the huge international impact of his work to completely eradicate yaws.

Oriol Mitjà Villar (Barcelona, 1980) graduated in Medicine from the University of Barcelona and conducted his internship in the specialisation of internal medicine and infectious diseases. In 2009 he won a Bada international cooperation grant from the Barcelona Medical Association which allowed him to take diploma studies at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. In 2012, in Barcelona, he completed his PhD with the thesis Strategies for controlling yaws and other neglected tropical diseases in the islands of the South Pacific.

He has received numerous international awards such as the Anne Maurer-Cecchini and the European Tropical Medicine awards. He has also written reviews for renowned specialised journals, including a seminar for The Lancet, and for the online publication UpToDate.

In 2019 he received a European Research Council grant worth 1.5 million euros towards identifying alternative treatments for yaws and syphilis, two treponemal diseases whose similarities mean that they can be tackled together.

Oriol was leading a research team in Papua New Guinea when he demonstrated the effectiveness of an oral antimicrobial treatment (azithromycin) for the first time in the treatment of yaws, a forgotten tropical infection that affects children in poor, rural populations, causing disfiguration and painful lesions on the skin and bones. As Oriol says: “Yaws affects underprivileged populations who will never improve because the consequences of this disease limit the physical abilities of sufferers and result in social rejection.” Following his discoveries, Oriol became a special advisor to the WHO on the subject of forgotten tropical dis. eases.

In 2020 he will extend his research into yaws to include syphilis, given the similarities between the bacteria that cause both illnesses. His studies will be conducted in Barcelona and he hopes to have the results by the end of 2022. Through his research, Oriol is contributing towards strengthening the strategy to eradicate yaws and control the syphilis epidemic, which is starting to become a global threat.


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