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Image of the Week: WTCMP researchers visit Kilifi

28 Mar, 2014

Wellome Trust

This Image of the Week comes courtesy of Wellcome Trust researcher Professor Andy Waters Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Molecular Parasitology (WTCMP) that participates in the Wellcome Trust Liverpool Glasgow Centre for Global Health (WTLGCGH). This week he’s been in Kenya with Prof Paul Garside, also from WTCMP and WTLGCGH . Professor Waters sent us this short report about their visit…  

Last year Professor Paul Garside, Head of Immunobiology and member of the WTCMP in Glasgow, spent two periods of three months in Africa. He was researching and building links with two medical research centres, the KEMRI-WT Centre in Kilifi, Kenya and the Malawi Liverpool Wellcome (MLW) Centre in Blantyre Malawi.

The trips proved so successful at identifying common interests, such as applying some of the approaches to autoimmune disease that are Paul’s expertise, that they prompted a recent visit to Glasgow by Dr Francis Ndungu.  Dr Ndungu is a Senior Researcher at KEMRI-WT and his visit allowed further assessment of whether the investigation of non-communicable disease (such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and stroke) might reveal how they influence, or can be influenced, by communicable diseases such as malaria.

This week Paul and I visited the centres to try to take the interactions even further.  We spent four days talking to different researchers in KEMRI-WT to continue to identify potential collaborations.  Then we went slightly further afield to Pwani University in Kilifi, a new and expanding university that has research links with KEMRI-WT, and enjoyed a very enthusiastic exchange with the leading officials there. We left with the commitment to run an advanced training summer school together with KEMRI-WT in 2015.

The photo above shows KEMRI-WT driver, Benson Chai, and was taken on our visit to the Junju malaria cohort south of Kilifi. We participated in the regular briefing meeting held by Juliana Wambua with the field workers.

This particular meeting was held ahead of the intensive bleeding programme that accompanies the rains and increased malaria transmission. The cohort have agreed to allow the children of the village to give small amounts of blood to allow workers at KEMRI-WT to assess the levels of malaria and the intensity of its transmission. They will also genotype the parasites in each sample and characterise the individual’s immune responses to the parasite.

By repeating these studies over years it is possible to build a picture of time of an individual’s case history and identify trends in the whole population. This is only possible through good communication and openness that instills the whole enterprise with mutual trust.

This atmosphere was very evident at the meeting we attended. The villagers are fully behind this programme as they clearly see the need to combat malaria. They are kept informed of how they are helping the bigger research programme by regular visits from the researchers who explain their work.

This was one of an intensive series of meetings and lectures with many staff at KEMRI-WT and nearby Pwani University that aim to build closer research ties for WTCMP and Glasgow University with institutions in the region.  Collaborative research and training is important to the goal of translating basic and applied research into a greater understanding of the actual field situation and developing measures that might help combat the disease.

For more information on this work listen to Prof Garside’s podcasts from his original visit to Kilifi in 2013. 

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