Dr. Nathalie Strub-Wourgaft, The Mycetoma Champion

Nathalie fist visit to the MRC


Dr Nathalie Strub-Wourgaft involvement with the Mycetoma campaign showcases a remarkable journey of dedication and advocacy for a deeply neglected disease. The turning point in her commitment can be traced back to a meeting organised by The Leishmaniasis East Africa Platform (LEAP) in Khartoum under the leadership of the late Prof. Ahmed El Hassan. During this event, I invited Nathalie, who was then the Director of Neglected Tropical Diseases at the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi), to visit the Mycetoma Research Center (MRC) in Khartoum.

Despite her extremely busy schedule, Nathalie made time to attend one of the MRC outpatient clinics. Here, she encountered a young woman suffering from severe actinomycetoma, which had resulted in a below-knee amputation and had spread massively to her thigh, perineum, and genitalia, leaving the patient in a state of deep depression. Witnessing this devastating case firsthand had a profound impact on Nathalie, galvanising her resolve to support mycetoma patients.

During a laboratory visit, a crucial conversation highlighted the dire neglect of mycetoma, even within DNDi’s broader focus on neglected diseases. This realisation spurred her into action. She began to champion the cause of mycetoma tirelessly, seeking to bring attention and resources to this overlooked disease. At that time, mycetoma was scarcely known, even within medical circles, and few could even recognise the name.


The international community neglects Mycetoma, I said


On February 1, 2013, Nathalie organised the first informal meeting at DNDi’s Geneva headquarters, aiming to strategise ways to raise the profile of mycetoma within the international community. Her efforts included organising numerous meetings with the World Health Organization, non-governmental organisations, civil society groups, embassies, and government officials. Her persistent advocacy bore fruit when mycetoma was eventually included in DNDi’s portfolio and, in 2016, was added to the WHO’s list of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).


The first informal meeting at DNDI’s Geneva headquarters


The journey to this recognition was fraught with challenges and setbacks. However, her unwavering supervision and leadership turned this arduous journey into a success story. One of her significant achievements was initiating and supporting the first-ever double-blind clinical trial for a new mycetoma treatment.



This groundbreaking study was recognised as the best clinical study of 2023 by DNDi, and the MRC earned an award at the inaugural WHO global meeting on skin-related neglected tropical diseases in March 2023 in Geneva, Switzerland.


Nathalie presenting the DNDi Best Clinical Trial 2023 Award


Today, mycetoma has a well-established programme within DNDi, largely thanks to Dr. Strub-Wourgaft’s relentless efforts. Even after stepping down as Medical Director, she continued to support the MRC from behind the scenes. Her dedication earned her the title of Mycetoma Ambassador in 2019, a role in which she continued to champion the cause.


With the villagers and the Sennar State Minister of Heath


Nathalie commitment extended beyond administrative advocacy; she visited mycetoma-endemic villages, working long hours to support patients and find solutions to their problems. Her presence and voice were critical at international conferences  on mycetoma, where she provided invaluable advocacy and support.



Her work, driven by a profound empathy for patients suffering from neglected tropical diseases, has left an indelible mark on the fight against mycetoma.


During a health education event at Wad Onsa village


In a conversation with her, I once remarked on her choice to dedicate her life to supporting NTDs and mycetoma patients despite living a comfortable and esteemed life in Geneva. Her response was simple yet profound: “The poor patients deserve all the support and care.” This encapsulates Dr. Strub-Wourgaft’s enduring commitment and the compassionate heart she has for those afflicted by neglected tropical diseases.


After spending long hours at the Wad Onsa Village Mycetoma Clinic