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[PARIS] Women researching topics ranging from malaria to nanotechnology have picked up prizes in the annual 'For Women in Science' awards.

Malaria researcher Khadijetou Lekweiry from Mauritania received one of the 15 international fellowships awarded.

Lekweiry, a doctoral student at the Cadi Ayyad University in Morocco, studies the Anopheles mosquito to find new ways of tackling the spread of malaria among people in cities. She will use the two-year fellowship to carry out her work at the Institute for Research and Development in Dakar, Senegal.

''Until recently the capital [of Mauritania], Nouakchott, was considered relatively immune to malaria because it was on the coast, near the sea, and because it had relatively little rainfall. But as the city has expanded, the rate of malaria has increased a lot,'' Lekweiry said.

She intends to report her findings to public health officials to make the ''maximum impact'' and improve living conditions.

The awards, sponsored by L'Oreal and UNESCO, aim to raise the profile of women in science by recognising their contributions and providing fellowships for promising research projects.

Other 2009 winners include Cecilia Gonzales Marin of Peru who is investigating the links between inadequate oral hygiene in pregnant women and the risk of premature birth or infection in newborns.

Molecular biologist Nonhlanhla Dlamini of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, won a fellowship to work with traditional healers on herbal remedies for Kaposi's sarcoma, a skin cancer common amongst people with HIV/AIDS.

Ishrat Bano of Quaid-i-Azam University in Pakistan won a fellowship to investigate the use of magnetic nanoparticles for more efficient drug delivery.

Another African winner, Joan Munissi from the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, won a fellowship for exploring new compounds found in local marine fungi along the coastline, which she hopes might yield new drugs.

President of the jury for physical sciences, Ahmed Zewail, the first Egyptian winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, saluted the diversity of science in the developing and developed worlds. He noted the political impact of recognising young scientists, pointing out that a 2007 winner, forest conservationist Christine Ouinsavi, now runs the ministry of trade and industry in Bénin.

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