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  • Sub-Saharan Africa news in brief: 18 June–1 July 2009


Below is a round up of news from or about Sub-Saharan Africa for the period 18 June–1 July 2009

An easier way to treat sleeping sickness
Combining an existing intravenous sleeping sickness drug with a new pill is an easier and cheaper way of treating the disease, say researchers. Eflornithine is usually administered every six hours for 14 days but when followed by ten days of nifurtimox pills, it need only be given every 12 hours for seven days. The research was carried out in Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo. More>>*

Detecting malaria in placenta
Researchers in Cameroon, led by Judith Anchang-Kimbi of the University of Buea, have found that testing placental tissue shortly after birth is the best way to accurately diagnose malaria in pregnant women. Medical staff across Sub-Saharan Africa have struggled to diagnose specific types of malaria parasites in pregnant women, who face significant health risks — such as dangerous drops in iron levels in the bloodstream — as a result. More>> [204KB]

Africa crafts its own biotechnology future
Africa is taking the lead in creating its own biotechnology agenda, according to researchers based at South Africa's Durban University of Technology and the University of Kwazulu-Natal. They say that sugar-farming countries such as Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe are exploring large-scale production of bioethanol, while the use of alternative biofuels such as jatropha is moving ahead in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi and South Africa. More>> [140KB]

What is a global health risk?*
Nelson Sewankambo from the medical school at Uganda's Makerere University College of Health Sciences is among the authors of an article in The Lancet calling for global health efforts to include malnutrition and obesity, tobacco risks, mental health and deaths due to motor vehicle accidents. The article argues that "infectious agents are communicable and so are parts of the Western lifestyle". The study was undertaken by the Consortium of Universities for Global Health. More>>

Zimbabwe tackles health of HIV-positive pregnant women
Zimbabwe-based researchers have found better ways to measure the iron status of HIV-positive women who have just given birth. The research confirms recommendations from the WHO and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the best way to assess how changes in body chemistry can alter iron levels. Anaemia is a common cause of post-natal death among HIV-positive women in Zimbabwe — and can affect women regardless of whether or not they are on antiretroviral drugs. More>>

Measuring child health in Madagascar
Researchers in Burkina Faso, France and Madagascar have assessed whether an infant and child feeding index (ICFI) is a useful analytical tool to measure the health of babies and toddlers in urban Madagascar. The research, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that the index can accurately trace the diet quality and growth provided that it is adapted to each context. More>>

Using bacteria to fight oil spills in the Niger Delta
University of Port Harcourt say that actinobacteria — such as mycobacteria, the species that includes the TB-causing Mycobacterium tuberculosis — can make ''an important contribution'' to fixing soil soaked in a crude oil spill. The oil industry is responsible for large-scale pollution of land and water in southern Nigeria and researchers suggest that the bacteria can be a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly way to restore the damage done to vegetation, soil fertility and soil-borne microorganisms. More>> [546KB]

Traditional medicines need cold storage
Microbiologists from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa have found that many traditional herbal medicines such as African potato and rooiwortel — commonly used inappropriately in the absence of antiretrovirals — rapidly lose their chemically active compounds in high temperatures. The researchers also discovered high levels of contamination with bacteria and fungi, which increased the loss of active compounds from the medicinal plants. The work highlights the difficulties of establishing basic quality control for traditional medications. More>> JAN see pdf in folder [PDF 313KB]

South Africa on cloud nine
South Africa's University of the Witwatersrand has beaten universities from around the world to become one of the first in Africa to join the IBM/Google Cloud Academic Initiative[1.65kB] which allows researchers to utilise vast computing resources available on the 'Cloud'. More>>

Egyptians, Moroccans work through rheumatoid arthritis attacks
A survey of 30 countries including Egypt and Morocco found that in developing countries, people afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis continue to work despite considerable pain severely limited physical ability. According to the researchers, people in the developing world continued to work even when their pain exceeded that of patients in the developed world who had retired on disability pensions. The African League against Rheumatism is conducting research into the disease in 13 countries on the African continent. More>>

Reproductive health a victim of armed conflict
The first systematic attempt to track official development assistance for reproductive health in conflict-affected countries has found wide disparities, with the highest annual average cash flow for reproductive health going to Uganda (US$4.80 per person) and the Central African Republic (US$2.90 per person) within African countries. Many countries with better reproductive health indicators received more funding than countries in greater need, such as Somalia (US$1) and Democratic Republic of Congo (US$0.80). More>>

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Compiled by Christina Scott.

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