Dr. George Busby, Team Leader “Mobile Malaria Project”
The long road to malaria control
The Mobile Malaria Project team, led by Dr. George Busby from the University of Oxford, has travelled over 7,500km across Africa with a modified Land Rover Discovery to exchange with local experts on the challenges in malaria control and to teach African scientists how to use the latest technology in this field.
Malaria is the world's most common infectious disease, affecting around 220 million people and killing more than 435,000 people worldwide every year, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. Almost two-thirds of them are children under the age of five (as of 2017).
New approaches are very much needed in the effort to combat malaria, because the parasites which cause the infection are developing resistance to the anti-malarial drugs. This was the reason for the Mobile Malaria Project team to make their contribution toward combating the disease in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Expedition team from left: Jason Hendry, Dr. George Busby and Dr. Isaac Ghinai
The Mobile Malaria Project was organized under the slogan “RGS Land Rover Bursary,” since Jaguar Land Rover and the Royal Geographical Society jointly sponsor a project each year, both in terms of funding and through the loan of a vehicle. The Land Rover Discovery is also equipped with a mobile genetic sequencing laboratory, enabling the expedition team to train local scientists to perform DNA sequencing of mosquitoes and malaria parasites.The main aim of the Mobile Malaria Project was to visit malaria researchers in Namibia, Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya to learn about their work and to teach African geneticists how to use the latest portable genetic sequencing technology to examine malaria parasites. The scientists are convinced that genetics play a crucial role in future malaria monitoring efforts. “DNA can tell you about the resistance status of populations of parasites and provides up to date information that can be used by malaria control programs”, explains Dr. George Busby, Team Leader of the Mobile Malaria Project.
The journey through Africa took a total of two months, and covered a distance of 7,500 kilometres from Walvis Bay, Namibia, to Mombasa, Kenya, in the east of the continent. On the journey across Africa, the team was able to exchange ideas with local scientists and examine the conditions on site. “What was lacking quickly became obvious. The local scientists simply do not have the same conditions to carry out cutting-edge research as we do in western countries”, says George Busby. “This situation made it even more important for the research team to convey the following core message: Research no longer requires large laboratories. Within only six hours, it is possible to generate genetic data from mosquitoes in the back of a car.”
The successful research trip itself and the knowledge gained during the expedition alone is, of course, not sufficient to fight malaria permanently. The conditions on site, such as the establishment of in-country genetic sequencing capacities, or systems for better monitoring of infectious diseases, must be significantly improved.
Having our logistics covered by DB Schenker meant that we could concentrate on our main project ambitions.”
DB Schenker supported the research team by taking care of the entire logistics operations. Managed by DB Schenker’s Global Projects team, the journey of the Land Rover began in Tilbury on the Thames. Here, DB Schenker staff loaded the vehicle and the highly delicate scientific equipment into an ocean freight container and took all measures required for safe transportation. The next stop was Antwerp, and from there the journey continued on to Namibia – passage time: 22 days; distance traveled: 6,446 nautical miles.
On the trip across Africa, the DB Schenker team in Namibia and Kenya handled all the customs and immigration formalities – while the researchers had full access to the address system what3words, designed by DB Schenker’s partner with the same name, to help them navigate in remote regions. Finally, DB Schenker Kenya organized the ocean transport of the car from Mombasa back to the UK, this time via the Suez Canal – a journey of 6,929 nautical miles.
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