The whole Ugandan population is at risk of contracting malaria. Despite efforts to fight the disease, malaria incidence has been increasing in the last few years. For researchers at the Ugandan Virus Research Institute (UVRI), this challenge requires a team effort to find new tools to beat mosquitoes.
In the institute at UVRI in Entebbe, Jonathan Kayondo leads a multi-disciplinary team part of a global not-for-profit research project called Target Malaria. Together with 14 other institutions worldwide they are working on developing and sharing an innovative vector control tool to reduce the population of malaria mosquitoes. Out of the 3500 species of mosquitoes, a small number transmit malaria, the Anopheles mosquitoes. The UVRI team is contributing through its expertise to develop genetic approaches to affect the reproduction of these mosquitoes.
KNOW YOUR ENEMY
To develop this new tool, the researchers need to better understand mosquitoes: how they live, where they are, how they reproduce, how far they fly, etc. Knowing your enemy is hard work, going month after month to rural villages collecting mosquitoes in their different life stages (eggs, larvae, adult) and then heading back to the lab in Entebbe to analyse them. Krystal Birungi, a young female entomologist leads this work with passion. The data collected in Uganda is then compiled with additional information from Burkina Faso and Mali (other partner countries) to better inform the project’s plans and strategies.
Anopheles gambiae is pretty good at its job, so to speak. Without knowing its dynamic, its behaviour, it’s very difficult to use any control measure against it effectively.
– Krystal Birungi, Field Entomology Coordinator
A COMMUNITY OF EXPERTS
This essential work also involves local communities at the collection sites, who share their knowledge about malaria mosquitoes and play an important role to facilitate mosquito collections. Engaging local communities is key to Target Malaria, this is why the UVRI team includes stakeholder engagement and communication experts. The engagement team works closely with communities to inform them about the project objectives, activities and collect their feedback and knowledge to contribute to the co-development process of the approach. They make the project value of openness and accountability a reality in their day-to-day work.
With the engagement of stakeholders, the objective is for the community to own the innovation and that this will increase stakeholders’ acceptance for the future tool.
– Emmanuel Magala
While the science is making great progress in the lab at Imperial College London, there are still many steps ahead before a final tool is available to reduce mosquito population. Defeating malaria is a marathon that started decades ago and requires several complementary tools. The UVRI team is definitively part of the race to end the disease by implementing responsible research and showing commitment to develop a long-term, sustainable and cost-effective tool. They are dedicated to contributing to the fight against malaria and are paving the way for a malaria free world.
What’s exciting about this project is that the team is goal driven and there is always a milestone to aspire to which helps to keep everyone focused
– Jonathan Kayondo
There is also a short film highlighting some of the great work that Target Malaria carry out across Uganda: https://targetmalaria.org/meet-our-team-krystal-birungi-field-entomology-coordinator-at-the-uganda-virus-research-institute/.
Visit https://targetmalaria.org to see more of the Target Malaria’s work as they head to Burkina Faso.