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Pioneers: The Mukwaya mosquito

By Vision Reporter

Added 19th August 2011 03:00 AM

WHEN Louis Mukwaya began school in the late 1940s, little did he know that 60 years later, he would make history, leaving his name etched in the record books.

WHEN Louis Mukwaya began school in the late 1940s, little did he know that 60 years later, he would make history, leaving his name etched in the record books.

BY CONSTANTINE ODONGO

WHEN Louis Mukwaya began school in the late 1940s, little did he know that 60 years later, he would make history, leaving his name etched in the record books.

A team of renowned international mosquito taxonomists named a new sub-group (sub-genus) of the group (genus) Stegomyia (Aedes) mosquitoes after Dr. Mukwaya.

The Stegomyia is the mosquito that spreads the yellow fever virus. Mukwaya was the first Ugandan to have a sub-genus of mosquitoes dedicated to him. Mukwaya says the mosquito was named after him in recognition of his research and contribution in the field of medical entomology and his knowledge of the mosquito, Aedes simpsoni, is now known as Stegomyia (Mukwaya) simpsoni.

A detailed description of this new sub-genus was published in 2009 in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society of London by three renowned mosquito taxonomists. Mukwaya has served as a consultant on various projects, including his 1987 intervention in the yellow fever outbreak in Nigeria.

“When we went to Nigeria, about 10,000 deaths had occurred. We discovered that people had cut down forests and as such, mosquitoes which used live there became peridomestic and readily got in contact with man. Hence, a possible hazard was obvious,” Mukwaya narrated.

The assistant director of research at the Uganda Virus Research Institute for 15 years has worked with the body since 1965. Mukwaya’s appointment as a trainee graduate made him the first Ugandan to work in this research agency.

He went to Kijaguzo Full Primary School, before proceeding to Rubaga Junior Secondary School. He then attended St. Mary’s College, Kisubi. At Makerere University College, he attained a Bachelor of Science (Zoology, Botany and Chemistry) degree of the University of London.
Six years later, Mukwaya obtained a PhD in Medical Entomology at the University of East Africa, while based at Makerere and the East African Research Institute. He then moved on to Princeton University in the US, where he was a post-doctoral fellow in the department of biology.

He was the only scientist from black Africa who participated in the 2001, Imperial College, London, discussions on the risks and benefits of developing a field trial with genetically modified mosquitoes for the control of malaria.

A genetically modified mosquito may not be susceptible to malaria parasites and may lose the ability to transmit the disease. Married for 42 years, Mukwaya is a family man. He passionately talks about his wife, Annettee and their six children.

One of the children, Josephine Birungi, has followed the 72-year-old’s path, obtaining a PhD and a post-doctoral qualification in molecular genetics of mosquitoes at a US university.

Pioneers: The Mukwaya mosquito

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