Thursday, July 21, 2016

Chicken odour 'prevents malaria' research in Ethiopia finds -

  • 8 hours ago
  • From the sectionAfrica

Chicken in a cage next to a bedImage copyrightKASSAHUN JALETA
Image captionLive chickens as well as compounds extracted from chicken feathers were used in the experiments

The smell from a live chicken could help protect against malaria, researchers have found.
Ethiopian and Swedish scientists discovered that malarial mosquitoes tend to avoid chickens and other birds.
The experiments, conducted in western Ethiopia, included suspending a live chicken in a cage near a volunteer sleeping under a bed net.
Last year malaria killed nearly 400,000 people in Africa, the UN says.
Infection and death rates are declining but health officials are continuing to look for new ways to prevent the spread of the disease.
The malaria parasite, which initially hides in the liver before going into the bloodstream, is carried from person to person by mosquitoes when they drink blood.
The scientists, whose research was published in the Malaria Journal, concluded that as mosquitoes use their sense of smell to locate an animal they can bite there must be something in a chicken's odour that puts the insects off.
Addis Ababa University's Habte Tekie, who worked on the research, said that the compounds from the smell of the chicken can be extracted and could work as a repellent.
Field trials for this stage of the research are now "in the pipeline", he told the BBC.

MosquitoImage copyrightCDC
Image captionMosquitoes identify potential hosts using their sense of smell

Researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences were also involved in the project.
Compounds extracted from chicken feathers were also used in the experiments, as well as live chickens.
Researchers discovered that the use of the chicken and the compounds "significantly reduced" the number of mosquitoes that were found in the trap nearby.
The scientists say that with reports that some mosquitoes are developing resistance to insecticide "novel control methods" need to be embraced.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

South Sudan hit by mysterious Ebola-like illness

South Sudan has been reeling from civil war, widespread hunger, and desperate poverty. The last thing the world’s newest nation needs is a deadly mystery disease. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what it’s got.
At least 10 people have died so far from the disease, which has symptoms that include bleeding, fever and vomiting. These effects are similar to Ebola, but tests show that it’s not, leaving medical workers perplexed.
“The lab results are not consistent with the symptoms, and that is what is concerning,” Dr. Rohit Chitale, an epidemiologist with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told IRIN in a phone interview.
So far the risk of an epidemic seems low. The disease hasn’t come anywhere near the levels of the Ebola epidemic that appeared in 2014 and tore through the West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.
Since late December, South Sudan has had 51 reported cases of what the World Health Organization is referring to as “undiagnosed haemorrhagic fever syndrome”. All cases are from two counties in the northwest: Aweil North, where 45 people were infected and 10 died; and Aweil West, where there have been six cases, none fatal.
The region borders Darfur in Sudan, where 469 cases of undiagnosed haemorrhagic fever syndrome were reported between August and November 2015, and 129 people died, according to the WHO.
“Because of frequent population cross-border movement between Sudan and South Sudan, the risk of international spread of the disease cannot be ruled out,” the WHO said in a statement.
Searching for answers
So far, 33 blood samples have been shipped from South Sudan to WHO laboratories in Uganda, Senegal, and South Africa. Five turned up positive for onyong-nyong, three for chikungunya, and one for dengue. Those mosquito-borne viruses, however, do not explain the 10 deaths. All samples tested negative for Ebola and Zika.
“Further laboratory testing is ongoing that may confirm the causative agent,” said the WHO.
The new disease may not even result from a virus at all. The WHO said “ecological risk factors” in the region suggest that it could be carried by mosquitos, ticks or fleas. But researchers are also conducting tests to determine if it could be transmitted through food or water contaminated by bacteria, parasites or viruses.
“Currently, there is no evidence of person-to-person transmission of the disease,” the organisation said.
Young people appear to be most at risk, with 74.5 percent of the victims below 20 years of age.
“Based on the data so far, it may be something that children and women are exposing themselves to,” said Chitale, from the CDC.
Research barriers
He said that violent conflict and underdevelopment are hampering efforts to solve the mystery of what’s causing the disease in Aweil, which may be the same as the one that cropped up in Darfur last year.
“There are a whole host of challenges in uncovering the cause of this outbreak,” he said. “For example, the regional instability, the poor infrastructure, and therefore just a lack of easy access.
South Sudan’s severely underfunded health system also hampers efforts to identify and control the disease. The health ministry has taken the lead role in the response, but it has not been given a budget to do so. 
The government’s expenditure on health accounted for only four percent of GDP in 2013, the eighth lowest rate in the world, according to the World Bank. The 2016 national budget allocated more than 10 times the amount of funding to its military than it did to the health sector.
After almost half a century of war, South Sudan split from Sudan in 2011, but clashes continued to erupt along the newly-drawn border as well as between tribal and militia groups. In 2014, South Sudan’s military split along tribal lines and civil war erupted. The conflict choked off oil production, virtually the only source of revenue, further impoverishing the country.
Still, health ministry officials say they are trying their best with the resources they have.
“Since December, we have put in place some safety measures,” said Dr. John Rumunu, director general for preventive health services at the health ministry in the capital, Juba.
The building is almost always lacking electricity since the ministry cannot afford to run generators and city power is rare.
“We have been communicating the risk, and we are asking people to come for whomever has these kinds of symptoms,” he said in an interview in his dimly lit office.
(PHOTO: A patient gets treated at a hospital run by Médecins Sans Frontières​ in the South Sudan town of Malakal. Anna Surinyach/MSF)

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Drones deliver sterile insects to tackle disease in Ethiopia

Drones deliver sterile insects to tackle disease in Ethiopia: "Drones deliver sterile insects to tackle disease in Ethiopia
They reduce the tsetse fly population and stop the spread of trypanosomiasis.

Nick Summers , @nisummers
03.30.16 in Robots


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To combat disease-ridden tsetse flies in Africa, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is enlisting heavy-duty drones. An autonomous system has been developed by Embention, which can fly for up two hours at a cruise speed of 20 meters per second. Under each wing is a stack of temperature controlled pods, each containing a swarm of sterile male insects. These little creatures have been pummelled with gamma radiation, courtesy of the IAEA, while they were bred in captivity. Once they're in the wild, they mate ferociously with the native population, producing no offspring and consequentially lowering the tsetse fly population.

"The wild population will decline progressively," Argiles-Herrero, an IAEA scientist working on the drone project said. "The survivors are overwhelmed with more sterile males every week, at a ration of 10:1, so in the end the population cannot recover and can eventually be eradicated."

The approach could be replicated with manned aircraft, but there are benefits to using the drones. First of all, they're cheaper to use, given their size and autonomous flight capabilities. They're also more effective because they can fly lower than their manned equivalent. Embention's system is convenient too, as it can be programmed to drop the insects at different rates depending on the area. So if the region has a particularly high tsetse fly population, the drone can up its dosage accordingly. Otherwise, it will simply drop the boxes at predefined coordinates.

The drones are being tested in Ethiopia, where tsetse flies affect at least 200,000 square kilometers of fertile land. Embention and the IAEA are working with the Ethiopian Ministry of Livestock and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation to fine-tune the system. If it's successful, the autonomous planes could be rolled out further, tackling the problem in wider areas. That would slow the spread of trypanosomosis, commonly known as sleeping sickness, and ultimately save human lives.

Gallery: Drone to tackle tsetse flies | 4 Photos


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Prof. Muse Tegegne has lectured sociology Change &  Liberation  in Europe, Africa and Americas. He has obtained  Doctorat es Science from the University of Geneva.   A PhD in Developmental Studies & ND in Natural Therapies.  He wrote on the  problematic of  the Horn of  Africa extensively. He Speaks Amharic, Tigergna, Hebrew, English, French. He has a good comprehension of Arabic, Spanish and Italian.