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Below is a round up of news from or about Sub-Saharan Africa for the period 23 April–6 May 2009

Satellites fight malaria in Mali
Research from a savannah area in Mali shows that satellites can reveal the environmental factors that trigger the biological cycles of both the Plasmodium falciparum parasite and its host the Anopheles mosquito. Remote sensing data of vegetation accurately predicted climate trends affecting both the parasite and the mosquito and could therefore forecast the severity of a malaria outbreak. Satellite data could be used to tailor control programmes such as mosquito spraying, pesticide-impregnated net use or early detection and treatment to environmental conditions, say the researchers. More>>[619kB]

Zanzibar in a fever over rapid malaria diagnosis
Rapid malaria diagnostic tests — which can be quickly carried out even in regions without laboratories — can reduce the number of people who are mistakenly prescribed malaria drugs on the basis of their fever alone, according to researchers including Mwinyi Msellem and Abdullah Ali of the Zanzibar government's malaria control programme. The research, published in PLoS Medicine, says nurses who treat people for malaria without sufficient evidence can increase drug resistance and costs, and delay treatment of the actual illness. Using rapid diagnostics also caused an "encouraging" lower rate of re-attendance at clinics, although researchers warned that results may vary widely across Sub-Saharan Africa, depending on differences in practices and training. More>>

Decoding cattle in Ethiopia, Guinea, Kenya
Molecular biologist Morris Agaba and research technologist Joel Mwakaya of the Animal Genetics Resources Characterisation unit at the International Livestock Research Institute, Nairobi, Kenya, were among researchers involved in the Bovine HapMap — a consortium of hundreds of scientists worldwide. The researchers — who were "concerned" about a rapid recent decline in cattle diversity, driven by human selection — say that effective population sizes were much larger in the very recent past. The six-year sequencing, reported in Science, (see Cow genome sequence could boost cattle quality) could lead to important new findings about health and nutrition. More>>

Better pay not the key factor in brain drain
The ''first international effort'' to identify influences driving final-year pharmacy students to emigrate has found that factors such as a lack of professional development opportunities, knowing other migrant pharmacists or having already travelled abroad increased the brain drain tendency. The nine-country study — which included Egypt and Zimbabwe — found that better pay, while an issue, was "not an independent stand-alone factor influencing migration intentions". More>>

The cost of HIV in Ethiopia
Degu Jerene at Arba Minch district hospital in southern Ethiopia and colleagues have conducted one of the first cost analyses of HIV care in the Horn of Africa region. They found that the hospital could expect to spend US$235 annually on every AIDS patient using antiretroviral (ART) drugs. HIV-infected patients who were not yet on ARTs cost the hospital more than US$100 a year, mostly on inpatient care and treatment. The researchers say that the findings could be useful in the planning and budgeting for implementing ART programmes in the country, but they recommended follow-up studies that focus on the costs borne by patients to get a better idea of overall economic impact of the virus. More>> [232kB]

Caring for people with incurable diseases in South Africa and Uganda
The first study to explore the needs of patients with incurable diseases in Africa has urged better communication by healthcare workers. Carers and patients seldom received enough information about managing their diseases — such as cancer, HIV, and motor neurone disease — impacting negatively on their ability to cope, according to the multicentre study conducted in Uganda and South Africa. The work was done in conjunction with the Kampala-based African Palliative Care Association and the Cape Town-based Hospice Palliative Care Association. More>>

Coral reefs 'improving'
Banning commercial fishing has improved coral reefs badly hit by bleaching and climate change, according to researchers such as Nyawira Muthiga of the Wildlife Conservation Society and Joseph Maina of Kenya's Coral Reef Conservation Project. Other study authors surveyed reefs ranging from Mozambique to Kenya, and including Madagascar. The study concludes that the reefs are fairly resilient to climate change and therefore a high priority for future conservation actions. The results were reported at the International Coral Reef Initiative. More>>

Fish under pressure in Kenya's Lake Baringo
Life is ''unpredictable and unstable'' for a distinct sub-species of tilapia fish found only in Kenya's Lake Baringo, where catches have long been declining according to data going back to 1964 published in the journal Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, according to environmental researchers such as Micai Muchiri, head of the department of fisheries at Kenya's Moi University. More>>

Compiled by Christina Scott.

If you would like to suggest a story for this news in brief, please contact the Africa News Editor Christina Scott ([email protected]).

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