COMBATING A KILLER

MKU wins Sh450m for malaria research in Homa Bay

Grant won jointly with Osaka City University was awarded by Japan International Cooperation

In Summary

•The grant will see Osaka City University in Japan pocket Sh150 million.

•Kenya Medical Research Institute and the Health Ministry will participate in the research together with the two universities.

Mount Kenya University director for grants and development Dr Jesse Gitaka
GRANT: Mount Kenya University director for grants and development Dr Jesse Gitaka
Image: COURTESY

Efforts to eliminate malaria in Homa Bay have received a boost after Mount Kenya University won a Sh450 million grant to undertake research in the county.

Malaria is a leading killer of children younger than five years in Kenya and claims the life of a child every two minutes.

The grant won jointly with Osaka City University was awarded by Japan International Cooperation.

MKU will take Sh300 million from the grant while Osaka City University will get Sh150 million.

Kenya Medical Research Institute and the Health Ministry will participate in the research together with the two universities. The project is expected to take five years.

Malaria prevalence in Homa Bay county stands at about 26 per cent, making it one of the high malaria zones alongside Kilifi, Mombasa, Lamu, Taita Taveta, Kisumu, Siaya, Migori, Vihiga, Kakamega and Bungoma counties.

“Osaka City University will use its portion on research and training while MKU and Kenyan partners will utilise Sh300 million for research and training and setting up a Centre for Malaria Elimination unit at MKU that will be operational in the next six months,” Dr Jesse Gitaka said.

Gitaka who is the director for grants and development at MKU applied for the sponsorship to help in the war against the disease in Kenya.

He noted that malaria was a major problem in Kenya and there was a need to alter the manner in which it was being tackled. The disease and the malaria causing mosquitoes have over time developed resistance to drugs and pesticides.

“We anticipate that over time, there will be need to change current treatment regimens in Kenya,” he said, adding that there was an urgent need for enhanced research.

Mount Kenya University director for rants and Development Dr Jesse Gitaka
STUDY: Mount Kenya University director for rants and Development Dr Jesse Gitaka
Image: COURTESY

The World Health Organization estimates that 228 million malaria cases were recorded globally in 2018.

Gitaka has been leading a team of MKU researchers on a project to control and eliminate malaria around the islands of Lake Victoria with a special focus on improving the diagnosis of malaria at the point of care.

MKU will have the central role in implementation of the project including the task of overall coordination as the principal research institution.

The grant and the research efforts that will follow are a significant boost in the fight against malaria. Current efforts to control malaria are focused on the development of an effective vaccine.

The main malaria control strategies adopted in Kenya include accurate diagnosis of patients exhibiting malaria-like symptoms before treatment, enhanced coverage and effective use of insecticide treated bed nets to reduce contact with the mosquito vector and public education through media.

In support of government efforts, the MKU researchers hope to scale up their activities and help reduce the malaria burden in Kenya and the region. 

Homa Bay is one of eight counties that was selected in Kenya where the first malaria vaccine was introduced.

That was on September 13 last year with declarations of support for the promising new malaria prevention tool and to demonstrate a ceremonial first vaccination of a six-month-old child.

The vaccine is now available for children from six months of age in selected areas of the country in a phased pilot introduction. It is the first and only vaccine to significantly reduce malaria in children.

 

Edited by Henry Makori