Nairobi, Kenya & Cape Town, South Africa | Eleven bold African innovators will receive close to $1 M in funding to develop products and technologies to fight antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in Africa.
Antibiotics play a critical role in reducing the burden of communicable diseases globally. However, AMR threatens the treatment of diseases as it renders these drugs ineffective and has contributed to 700,000 deaths globally each year. Although resistance to commonly prescribed antibiotics has been witnessed in Africa, the full scope of the burden is not yet understood as 40% of African countries do not have enough data on AMR (World Health Organization)
The 11, who were selected through a competitive process involving 100 applicants from 20 countries, will each receive between $100,000 and $250,000 to research the scope of AMR in Africa and develop relevant technologies and products to address the AMR challenge. These scientists will, for example, study the role of livestock in spreading AMR to humans, and the association between antibiotic prescription data from pharmacies and antibiotic resistance patterns observed in the communities.
The funding is provided by the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) and the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Six innovators – one Ghanaian, two Kenyans, one Nigerian and two Ugandans – will be funded through the AAS’ Grand Challenges Africa Innovation Seed Grants, which were created to catalyse scientific breakthroughs and find local solutions to solve Africa’s pressing challenges.
The Grand Challenges South Africa will fund the remaining five South African innovators.
“These innovations represent the Academy’s vision of transformed lives through science by offering unique scientific approaches to tackle AMR and relevant product offerings that are disruptive and likely to have a lasting impact on the health of African people,” said Grand Challenges Africa Programme Manager Dr Moses Alobo.
“It is well known that disease and bacteria respect no borders. As such, the SAMRC is pleased to be collaborating with the AAS to support and harness the talents of African scientists to generate relevant knowledge and innovative solutions to address AMR on the continent,” said Grand Challenges South Africa Programme Manager, Zoleka Ngcete.
Kwabena O Duedu, Senior Lecturer and Head of the Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Health and Allied Sciences, Ghana said: “We welcome this Grand Challenges Africa funding, which will help us to increase the understanding of how AMR is spread, its sources between humans and animals and how the plasmids, tiny pieces of DNA that shuttle between various forms of bacteria, evolve and contribute to its spread. Hopefully, we can generate evidence for Ghana and Africa to stop resistance.”
Gerald Mboowa, Bioinformatics & Genomics Research Fellow, College of Health Sciences, Makerere University (MakCHS), Uganda said: The Grand Challenges Africa funding will help us to identify indicators that can tell us when a drug is not effectively treating a specific disease in person or community due to resistance. Ultimately, we want to save lives and ensure that people do not continue to die without realising that they have become resistance to a certain drug and therefore require alternative interventions.”
The confirmed innovators, their nationalities and their African host institutions are:
Prof Anthony Mbonye, Ugandan, Makerere University College of Health Sciences, School of Public Health (Uganda)
To capture data on AMR indicators- antibiotic prescriptions, drug sensitivities and resistance patterns from the private sector (human and animal clinics and laboratories) to generate evidence that will contribute to improving antibiotic prescription practices, epidemiological surveillance and effective control of AMR in Uganda.
Dr John Kagira, Kenyan, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (Kenya)
Currently antimicrobial resistance (AMR) causes 700,000 deaths per year and it is projected that 10 million deaths due to AMR will occur every year after 2050. The community associated AMR is being fueled by close interaction between man and animals. Kagira’s research focuses on using modern molecular tools to provide evidence-based information role of livestock in spread of AMR to humans and thereby inform One Health policy of the control and management of AMR.
Dr Eric Ng’eno, Kenyan, Kenya Medical Research Institute
Timely, holistic and accurate information on antibiotic resistance is important for guiding public health actions and treatment decisions. Nge’no’s research explores application of ecological niche models in predicting spatial distribution of antibiotic resistance carriage risk, using antibiotic-use and environmental data.
Dr Gerald Mboowa, Ugandan, Bioinformatics and Genomics Research Fellow, College of Health Sciences, Makerere University (Uganda)
The project seeks to combine conventional microbiological procedures and whole genome sequencing to provide a snapshot into transmission dynamics and acquisition of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) of both community and nosocomial infections as well as potential risk factors
Dr Kwabena O Duedu, Ghanaian, Senior Lecturer Department of Biomedical sciences, University of Health and Allied Sciences, Ghana
The project will investigate the evolution, composition, overlap and relative importance of antibiotic resistance conferring plasmids, tiny DNA which shuttles between various forms of bacteria and are responsible for the spread of AMR, and their bacterial host ranges in humans, animals and the environment.
Dr Mohammed Lamorde, Nigerian, Head of Department of the Prevention, Care and Treatment Programme at the Infectious Diseases Institute, Makerere University. (Uganda)
To identify and understand drivers of antimicrobial resistance responsible for emergence of extended spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL) Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae in pediatric and maternal populations within Uganda.
The confirmed five South African innovators, their host institutions and the project titles are:
Dr Anthony Smith, National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD)- “Metagenomic population-based surveillance of antimicrobial resistance in South Africa”
The proposed project aims to investigate the prevalence of AMR in the human population and will work from the hypothesis that metagenomic sequencing of human sewage can be used to detect, and in combination with epidemiological / ecological modeling, explain and predict emergence and trends of AMR.
Sewage will be sampled from eight cities and sites across South Africa, deep metagenomic sequenced, the raw data shared into a common global secure cloud and thoroughly analysed for abundances of AMR genes, taxonomic composition and other genes of relevance using a standardized bioinformatics pipeline for this purpose.
Prof Poovendhree Reddy, Durban University of Technology- “Distribution of antibiotic profiles and antibiotic resistance associated with tuberculosis treatment regimens from wastewater treatment plants (WWTPS) in Africa” (Wastewater)”
The aim of the project is to determine whether the antibiotic profile found WWTPS may be used as a proxy of community antibiotic usage. The antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB) and antibiotic resistant gene (ARG) profiles in WWTPs and receiving environments in South Africa and other African countries will also be determined with the intention of providing mitigating strategies to prevent their release into the receiving environment.
Dr Tobias Louw, Stellenbosch University- “Knowledge loops for the containment of drug-resistance: driving change by correlating risk and infections”.
The project seeks to apply a combined top-down (data driven) and bottom-up (theory driven) approach which will be used to identify correlations between perceived risks and the real threat of drug-resistant infection and knowledge of the correlations be looped back to drive both behavioral change and engineering solutions. This research will close the knowledge loop on AMR, using Big Data and fundamental understanding to reveal the most effective strategies in reducing the real threat of drug-resistant infection.
Associated Professor Olga Perovic, National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) – “Antimicrobial resistance prevalence and transmission between animal feed and humans”.
The main aim of the project is to investigate use of molecular methods for detection of resistance genes without culturing organisms and the study proposes a new innovative approach to combine genomic data analysis with epidemiological evidence to explain patterns of AMR transmission between food animals and humans.
Prof Gideon Wolfaardt, Stellenbosch University- “The ICU Microbiome Project: the ecology of AMR”.
The goal of this project is to establish an ICU-based sentinel surveillance network in Africa, describe prevalent and incident patterns of colonisation in representative ICU’s and evaluate the correlation between AMR patterns in clinical isolates and in surveillance cultures of the ICU microbiome. Sentinel surveillance through ICU AMR monitoring and data sharing could be used identify modifiable factors in the persistence and spread of AMR.
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