Ugandan scientists are among 300 global health experts that are showcasing innovative research aimed at reducing Africa’s disease burden.
The scientists are participating in the ongoing three-day Deltas International Conference in Dakar Senegal, under the theme ‘a critical mass: developing world class research leaders.’
Deltas is an acronym for Developing Excellence in Leadership, Training and Science, a US$100 million program supporting the Africa-led development of world-class researchers and scientific leaders in Africa.
Participants are discussing the progress made in research towards an HIV cure and early detection tools for cancer and malaria control, according to a press statement from the organizers, African Academy of Sciences and partners.
Uganda’s scientists are from the Makerere University College of Health Sciences, the Uganda Virus Research Institute(UVRI) and Medical Research Council.
Key among them is Makerere’s Flavia Matovu Kiweewa, currently pursuing her PhD at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. Her research topic is, “The Impact of the hormonal contraception Depo-Provera and the anti-retroviral drug (ARV) Tenofovir on bone density/bone health in young women in Uganda.”
Kiweewa hopes that this, and more of her studies, will provide a variety of women with a range of options to prevent the acquisition of sexually transmitted infections and, “to make every pregnancy a wanted pregnancy.”
Dr David Meya, Post-doctoral Fellow, a senior lecturer at Makerere University College of Health Sciences is exploring whether the antidepressant, Sertraline, previously shown to enhance fungal clearance; also limits inflammation in the brain following fungal meningitis. Meya’s work aims to pursue better therapies for fungal meningitis, responsible for 10-15% of all HIV-associated deaths. He will also determine whether HIV patients diagnosed with fungal meningitis following recent ART initiation have increased inflammation in the brain.
Benon Asimwe, an Associate Professor of Microbiology and Public Health at Makerere University College of Health Sciences, is a group leader under the university’s partnership with the UVRI. His group is researching on antimicrobial resistance in vulnerable communities of Central and Eastern Africa.
Others are Makerere’s David Kateete who is handling a project on tuberculosis and neglected infections in Uganda, while Julius Mutagubya, from the medical Medical Research Council - Uganda is interested in research support.;
In a press statement, experts said the researches would make a difference in addressing the most pressing health problems in Africa.
“The conference represents a unique opportunity to demonstrate the value of investing in science and in training a critical mass of scientific leaders in Africa,” said Alphonsus Neba, the Africa Academy of Sciences’ Deputy Programmes Director- Science Support and Systems.
The continent’s health research agenda remains foreign-driven. Africa only has 198 researchers per million people, compared to the global average of 1,150. The result of this under-investment has been scientific brain-drain, where over 10% of sub-Saharan Africans with graduate degrees emigrate, leading to low heath research capacity on the continent.
Yet, the burden of disease continues to rise. Experts hope that investment in scientific research will make a difference to tackling health problems.