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  • Sub-Saharan Africa news in brief: 14–27 January 2010


Below is a roundup of news from or about Sub-Saharan Africa for the period 14–27 January 2010.

Africa to benefit from high-calibre labs
African scientists and students now have access to world-class laboratory facilities, with the opening of an agricultural biosciences research facility at the International Livestock Research Institute's (ILRI) campus in Nairobi, Kenya. The laboratory facility meets the standards of the world's most developed countries, said an ILRI spokesperson, and will enable Africans to "venture into new realms of science without constraints of inadequate laboratories". More>>

Sunflower genome could help boost agricultural productivity
A new research project mapping the genetic sequence of the sunflower family, which includes many important food crops, is aiming to promote sustainable agriculture, particularly in drier areas of Sub-Saharan Africa. The project — mainly funded by Genome Canada — will locate the genes responsible for specific traits such as seed-oil content and wood producing-capacity, offering scientists a means to develop drought-resistant traits in the crop.  More>>

Gorillas carry malaria parasites
Gorillas carry the Plasmodium falciparum parasite responsible for malaria, as well as two new malaria parasite species, researchers conducting studies in Cameroon and Gabon have found. The discovery confirms the recent finding that P. falciparum malaria originated from a similar parasite found in chimpanzees. The researchers warned that increased contact between humans and primates through logging and deforestation could increases the chances of new parasites being transmitted to humans. More>>

Namibian scientists recognised for work on nutritious bean
Namibian scientists working on domesticating a highly nutritious wild bean variety have been recognised at an international scientific conference in South Africa. The Marama wild bean is threatened with extinction and its domestication could boost nutrition, particularly in semi-arid countries like Namibia where there are few commercial crop production options. More>>

New approach to eliminate key African diseases

Researchers investigating a method for causing the self-destruction of parasites from the family that causes Chagas disease, leishmaniasis and sleeping sickness have found a compound that inhibits an enzyme essential to parasite survival. They reported their findings in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. More>>

Darfur deaths were disease-related
A study published in The Lancet has found that 80 per cent of deaths presumed to be conflict-related in Darfur, Sudan, are actually caused by diseases such as diarrhoea. They say that displaced individuals living in poor sanitary conditions are particularly vulnerable to diarrhoea-related disease, and call for "adequate humanitarian assistance" to aid with prevention and treatment. More>>

Circumcising newborn males a cost-effective HIV prevention strategy
A PLoS Medicine study conducted in Rwanda has found that circumcising male infants for HIV prevention is highly cost-effective and cost-saving, and circumcising adolescents is also cost-effective. The researchers say that policymakers in Rwanda and similarly-affected countries "should scale-up male circumcision programmes across all age groups, with high priority being given to the very young".  More>>

Herpes medication does not reduce HIV risk
A drug commonly used to treat genital herpes does not reduce the risk of HIV transmission when taken by patients with both HIV and herpes, according to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The Africa-based study looked at almost 3,500 couples where one partner had HIV and the other was uninfected. More>>

Compiled by Kimani Chege. Additional reporting by Munyaradzi Makoni and David Njagi.

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