Summer Travel Grant 2015 Recipient
Obadia Mfuh Kenji
UH Student Affiliate
It was nice to be home in Cameroon conducting field research that had such a tremendous impact on the population. Malaria and other infectious diseases, account for about 80% of hospital visits in Cameroon. It is estimated that every second a child dies of malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa. Prompt and accurate diagnosis of malaria can avert the high mortality rate of malaria in Africa. Unfortunately 90% of deaths from malaria occur in children less than 5 years old. Since most countries in Africa and South East Asia are endemic for malaria, many clinicians tend to prescribe malaria drugs to patients presenting with fever even without a diagnosis. This means that, other infectious diseases that cause fever go untreated. Therefore we were interesting in knowing the baseline malaria prevalence in our study population and to profile other infectious agents that cause febrile illnesses apart from malaria. We were also interested in developing a diagnostic test for malaria using a non-invasive sample (saliva). The current diagnostic methods for malaria require blood collection, which is an invasive procedure.
Thanks to the summer travel grant awarded to me by the EWCA, we were able to test for malaria in some febrile patients who took part in our study free of charge using rapid diagnostic test kits. The use of rapid diagnostic testing enabled us to quickly diagnose for malaria in about 10-20 minutes. We recruited a total of 550 study participants. Offering free testing to our study participants was beneficial, as some of them could not afford to pay for all their laboratory tests.
During my research period in Cameroon, I did mentor 5 under graduate students and one Masters student on their final year research projects. Most of their research projects were embedded in mine. Some of them took part in learning how to perform rapid diagnostic testing for malaria and other infectious diseases while others were involved in advanced diagnostic techniques. Both the students and some Government officials welcomed this transfer of technology. I had the opportunity of presenting our research findings during the World malaria day and in several workshops and conference organized by the Ministry of Public Health.