In the second quarter of the spring 2009 term, Fiona Larkan and Thomas Strong will lead a six week seminar sampling six ethnographies of HIV/AIDS. All are invited to participate. NUI Maynooth students who wish to obtain credit may register for this course as AN622 and must complete one 4,000 word essay. The seminar will focus on close reading of the texts listed [see flier for more details]. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the Daily Monitor Newspaper, Feb 25 2009
Promoting research science in Uganda
There is a shortage of good calibre scientists to work in laboratories, not just in Uganda but in America and Europe too, writes Kakaire Kirunda
Uganda does not have a critical mass of health research scientists to sustain ongoing research or conduct studies that need to be done. As the current crop of scientists ages towards retirement, few younger ones are taking up health research with those interested ending up in the developed world, according to the Director of Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) Dr Edward Katongole Mbidde.
Grooming would-be health research scientists from an early stage is proving to be problematic as well. It emerged at the release of results for last year’s Uganda Certificate of Education examinations that out of 2,159 examination centres, 755 of them did not have the laboratories needed to carry out practical examinations in Chemistry, Biology and Physics. This led to massive failures.
But that is not all. There is cause for more worry. Equally, there is a shortage of good calibre scientists to work in most laboratories in America and Europe.
According to Prof. Eli Katunguka, the director of the Makerere University School of Graduate Studies, “these developed countries are looking to Africa to provide because they know African students are hardworking and intelligent. They also know that at the same time, our conditions are not the best.”
Can low income countries such as Uganda compete for health research scientists with rich countries like the US or Britain that pay well and have better research facilities? Is there any hope for a bright future?
Dr Mbidde and Prof. Katunguka are optimistic. This follows a new collaboration between the Uganda Virus Research Institute and Makerere University, which is being funded by a grant from the Welcome Trust. Fulltime collaboration of scientists at the two institutions, sponsoring PhD and post doctoral fellowships in immunology and infection, and strengthening the TB laboratory at the Makerere University Medical School are part of the package.
However, for the potential research scientists at high school and undergraduate level, an annual open day that will be alternating between UVRI and Makerere University has been devised with UVRI slated to host the inaugural one on March 5, 2009. “You too can be a scientist,” is the theme.
“The atmosphere and push for science in this country as you do realise has changed,” says Dr Mbidde. “The momentum from government has really changed. Science is now their top priority and everybody can agree that countries that have developed have reached that far because of science, research and development.”
The open day, according to Dr Mbidde, is targeting students from senior three up to under graduate level together with their science teachers, but policy makers like legislators, politicians and interested members of the general public. “We thought this was an opportune moment for people to come and see what we are planning to do together. We are going to showcase what is being done at UVRI. Some people fear coming here because they think the place is infested with viruses,” he explains.
Prof. Katunguka agrees, saying there also is a false sense of fear that has been instilled in young people that sciences are not easy to pass. “Therefore many of them who want to pass with very little effort avoid sciences. Changing this thinking is one of the purposes of this open day,” says Katunguka. “We want to encourage scientists from both institutions to exhibit what they are doing in the area of infection and immunity. And even in other areas so that we can encourage young people to appreciate the role of science in national development.”
Talking to many young people, according to Prof. Katunguka, it has emerged that science is seen as abstract and is not clearly understood. “But if these senior school students, first and second year university students come to where research is taking place,” he argues, “then they will be in position to interact with these scientists and appreciate much better what they do and the role of science in daily lives.”
With UVRI housing several research organisations such as the Medical Research Council, Rakai Health Sciences Programme and the International Aids Vaccine Initiative among others, visitors stand a chance to witness firsthand how some of the trials there are being conducted.
But all these efforts may come to naught if the underlying problems at the very foundation of building a cadre of scientists are not fixed. While proponents give thumbs up to the government’s decision to prioritise sciences, more needs to be done. “The government needs to do more in the area of building laboratories, equipping them and in the area of training teachers who are competent in teaching science,” says Prof. Katunguka. “That is how the performance will improve. And the same thing can be said about the universities. Labs in the varsities are not the best.”
The CDPC is pleased to announce the initiation of a multi-disciplinary seminar series featuring the on-going work of immunologists, psychologists, geographers, anthropologists, and others; all those interested in problems of disease and health in the developing world are encouraged to attend. The seminars will take place at 3 PM every other Tuesday, beginning Tuesday, 17th February. Our venue is the Ehrlich seminar room (middle floor, Institute of Immunology, NUI Maynooth).
Our first speaker was Dr. Michael Kibe, who is presently in Maynooth on a CDPC training fellowship. He will speak on the following topics:
1. Transcriptional regulation and virulence in the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii
2. Identification and classification of protozoan parasite ABC transporters
Michael Kibe is a lecturer in the Department of Biochemistry, School of Medicine at the University of Nairobi, where he teaches undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Michael obtained his Ph.D from Brunel University in Middlesex, U.K., after having completed a Masters at the University of London and an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry/Botany at the University of Nairobi.
The CDPC’s 2008/2009 Guest Speaker series continued with Dr Elizabeth Pisani, author of The Wisdom of Whores, with an evening public lecture and afternoon master class on the 25th and 26th February, respectively. Both events drew a large and varied audience and the Consortium is very grateful to Dr Pisani for her time and her captivation presentations.
Public Lecture, Wednesday, 25 February 2009
Evening public lecture: 'Time to Slaugher Some Sacred Cows? Confronting failure in the war on AIDS'
Master Class, Thursday, 26 February 2009
Scientist, writer and traveller Elizabeth Pisani was born in the United States and spent her childhood in Western Europe, where she learned German, French and Spanish. She was educated in the British system, and has an MA in classical Chinese from Oxford University, and an MSc in Medical Demography and a PhD in Infectious Disease Epidemiology, both from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Elizabeth's first book, The Wisdom of Whores, is published by Granta. A lively account of a decade spent in brothels and boardrooms trying to make sense of the multi-billion dollar AIDS industry, the book is also published in the US, Canada, the Netherlands and Italy. Find reviews of the book here. Elizabeth also maintains a blog about sex, science and public policy at www.wisdomofwhores.com.
Students from Colaiste Lorcain, Castledermot, Co. Kildare won first prize in the Intermediate Biology Section at the BT Young Scientist exhibition. Emma Courtney, Ashley Dooley and Genevieve Courtney undertook ‘A Study of the Health Benefits of Probiotics’.
The students analysed various probiotic drinks and isolated the bacteria present in them. They then studied the growth of these cultures under different conditions, simulating the conditions and pH variations along the intestinal tract. They investigated the effects of taken antibiotics on the bacteria found in the probiotic drinks and the use of probiotic drinks to replenish the bacteria after taking a course of antibiotics.
The students then investigated if probiotic drinks could be used in developing countries, especially to see if it could improve the nutritional value of their already existing poor diet. They investgated if probiotic drinks could be used with antiretroviral therapy or to prevent HIV transmission.
Their initial study of the genomic perspectives on probiotics and gastrointestinal flora, lead to an exciting study for the students. Scientists had found that Cyanovirin-N prevented HIV transmission in primates. It prevented HIV from locking onto and penetrating cells in the vagina and genital tracts of mice. Cyanovirin-N is found naturally in the blue-green algae, Nostoc ellipsosporum. The gene has been isolated and genetically engineered into Lactobacillus jensenii. Initial research, has shown that Lactobacillus jensenii, when added to the genital tract of mice, small amounts of cyanovirin-N, was produced.
The students hope to continue their research under the supervision of their teacher, Mr. Sylvester McEvoy. Just as yoghurt is used in developing countries to treat thrush, the students hope to investigate the potential use of yoghurt and probiotic liguids to fights HIV transmission. The Combat Diseases of Poverty Consortium will continue to support the research.