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  • Sub-Saharan Africa news in brief: 28 January–10 February 2010

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Elephantiasis drug to be reformulated
A US$2 million grant has been awarded to researchers to update an existing drug in order to treat filarial worm diseases such as elephantiasis and river blindness. Flubendazole showed promise in earlier research but caused severe abscesses. Michigan State University researcher Charles Mackenzie, who will undertake the research, said that developing a safe way to administer the drug could have an enormous impact. More>>

Malaria vaccine shows promise in Mali
A malaria vaccine candidate has shown promise in a trial on 100 Malian children. The vaccine, FMP2.1/AS02A, produced good, long-lasting immune responses and the levels of antibodies produced in children were similar to those found in adults with natural immunity. The researchers say the next step is a larger trial on 400 children. More>> 

Yam research programme for Central and West Africa
Six Central and West African countries are set to benefit from a US$1 million grant to boost yam research in the region. Strengthening Capacity for Yam Research-for-Development in Central and Western Africa (SCYReC) aims to tackle problems such as low yields and pests that damage the important food crop. More>>

Salmonella antibodies provide clues for vaccine
Researchers in Malawi have identified antibodies against non-typhoidal Salmonella strains that kill the bacteria without the aid of immune cells. A vaccine that induces the antibodies, which African children naturally develop in their first two years, could protect against the disease, say the researchers, but would be useful only if it can completely clear the bacteria from the body. More>>

African teachers to receive e-training
The African Virtual University (AVU) has launched an e-learning training programme for teachers in ten African countries. The programme is already underway in Senegal and Uganda. Bakary Diallo, AVU rector, said the role of the organisation — which in 2005 launched a continent-wide programme for teachers to improve mathematics, science and ICT teaching — is "to ensure that people have access to the education that they will need to advance themselves and the continent". More>>  [30kB]

Researchers to study iron, folic acid on malaria risk
Researchers are to investigate whether giving iron and folic acid supplements to young women — particularly those who are pregnant — can treat anaemia without increasing the chance of getting malaria. There is some evidence that iron supplementation can increase vulnerability to the disease. The study will be conducted in Burkina Faso and, if successful, could influence adolescent health services. More>>

Economic impacts of drought-resistant maize to be investigated
Researchers are to investigate who will benefit most from the introduction of drought-tolerant maize in African countries. The Kansas State University Project, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will calculate the impacts on producers and consumers of maize produced through the Water Efficient Maize for Africa programme with the aim of ensuring a fair distribution. More>>

Jatropha blasts into outer space
Jatropha curcus, a potential biofuel source for the developing world, is the subject of one of the many experiments aboard the Endeavour Space Shuttle which blasted off from the Kennedy Space Station this week. The aim of the research is to investigate whether the plant's breeding process can be speeded up for commercial use. More>>

Compiled by Kimani Chege. Additional reporting by David Njagi and Maina Waruru.

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