Two members of Africa University’s faculty have won prestigious international awards for their ground-breaking research gaining them recognition as forerunners in the fight against Malaria in Africa. Mr Nobert Mudare, a Laboratory Scientist (AU-ZAPIM Molecular Biology Laboratory) in the College of Health Agriculture and Natural Sciences (CHANS) and Ms. Brenda Makonyere, a student intern in the Malaria Research Laboratory in the Department of Health Sciences also under CHANS have won travel awards from the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) and the and Pan Africa Mosquito Conference Association (PAMCA) respectively.
Mr. Mudare’s research on the Evaluation of Plasmodium falciparum circumsporozoite protein ELISA protocols for sporozoite detection in mosquitoes has earned him the ASTMH 2019 Annual Meeting Travel Award made possible through the ASTMH Presidents’ Challenge Travel Fellowship Fund, USA. The creation of the Presidents’ Challenge was led by ASTMH President Chandy John, with unanimous support by the organizations’ Board of Directors.
This ongoing campaign raises funds (matched dollar-to-dollar by the Society) to allow for 20 new travel awards, globally, of which 75 per cent are flagged for trainees from Low to Middle Income Countries(LMIC’s). The honour of winning the prestigious award allows for focus on professional development and career advancement facilitating the participation in the Annual Meeting by trainees from around the world. The hope is that the experience that award winners like Mr. Mudare shall earn will expand scientific networks and provide new opportunities for collaboration and learning that will be utilised for the entirety of one’s professional life, and ultimately help to improve the lives of those professionals who serve and the millions of individuals affected by tropical diseases.
Speaking of his passion for research in the field of Malaria, Norbert Said,
“The Malaria burden is still too high in Africa and my work focuses on incriminating Malaria vectors to fight Malaria transmission. It is preventable and curable. In 2016, there were an estimated 216 million cases of malaria in 91 countries, an increase of 5 million cases over 2015. About 90% of the cases in 2016 were in the WHO African Region (194 000), Zimbabwe included. Hence, after having worked at the Africa University Malaria Project, I was motivated to join in the struggle to fight Malaria so as to achieve a malaria free Zimbabwe, Africa and the world at large.”
“I strongly encourage other laboratory scientists in research to be motivated to write abstracts and analyse the data they generate. They must write manuscripts advising policy changes or showcasing new innovations and present/share findings in major scientific conferences for wider visibility. For the young scientists and researchers in our upcoming generation, always look for grants and funding opportunities for advancing research and your academic career if this is the path that you intend to follow.”
Breanda Makonyere represents a still untapped and hopeful generation of young scientists in Africa which is women in STEM. She has taken the challenge head on and in doing so, through her research into examining the association between the knockdown resistance (KDR) genotype and Plasmodium falciparum infection rates among wild An. gambiae sl vector mosquitoes- is already causing waves.
Earning for herself a travel award to Yaoundé, Cameroon from 20 September to 25 September 2019, she has been recognised among entomologists, medical scientists and upcoming young scientists with an interest in Malaria Vector control research. Her work has a strong influence on the fight against Malaria in Africa especially Zimbabwe, where the percentage of resistance in malaria vectors is still small. Her research shows that an increase in indoor residual spraying of perythroids cannot only cause the reduction of malaria due to vector mortality, but also has an additional impact on transmission through the selection of resistant mosquito variants that are refractory to malaria infection.
When asked about the importance of more women entering STEM fields and the significance of her award, Brenda said,
“My words of advice are directed to young women in science. Take every opportunity you get to do research in your line of study. We have so much to more to do and to add to the existing body of knowledge and there is no reason why we should feel excluded from STEM in any way.”
Brenda and Norbert’s successes are not only motivation but are also validation to the University as it seeks to position itself as a generator of knowledge and hub for innovative thought and research.