Yale, Kenyan scientists renew collaboration on tsetse fly research

Dr. Sam Kasiki, Deputy Director General of the Kenyan Wildlife Service; Dr. Felister Makini, Deputy Director General of the Kenya Agricultural Research and Livestock Organization; and Yale President Peter Salovey during a ceremony to continue a biomedical collaboration that aims to develop a more thorough understanding of the biology of parasitic diseases.

On March 16, President Peter Salovey and Serap Aksoy, professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health, took part in a signing ceremony with the Kenya Agricultural Research and Livestock Organization (KALRO) and Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS) to continue an existing collaboration in the biomedical sciences in the area of vector biology. The renewed agreement allows for the transfer of tsetse fly parts to Yale, where further research will be conducted to develop a more thorough understanding of the biology of parasitic diseases.

Parasitic diseases transmitted by the tsetse fly have long plagued human and animal health in tropical Africa, causing devastating epidemics and limiting agricultural and economic prosperity in tsetse-infested areas. Ensuring effective tsetse control is a high priority for improvement of human and animal health and the Kenyan and African economies.

During the ceremony, Salovey affirmed Yale’s commitment to working with African scientists and researchers to advance understanding of these organisms and develop innovative treatments for parasitic diseases.

This agreement ensures that together in close partnership, our researchers will manage tsetse fly-transmitted diseases like sleeping sickness, while maintaining biodiversity and conservation,” said Salovey. “In doing so, they will improve the lives of those in affected areas and add to scientific understanding for students and other investigators around the world.”

Yale and KALRO scientists will apply their findings to develop an effective policy framework of tracking and monitoring systems, including the development of appropriate outreach materials, exchange programs, technical capacity development, and technology transfer to enhance tsetse and disease management in Kenya. KWS will support the partnership by enabling access to tsetse flies, which form the critical material for scientific research.

Grace Murilla, senior scientist at KALRO, is the principal investigator of several research awards that form the basis for the studies proposed in the renewed collaboration. Aksoy, a faculty member of the Yale School of Public Health since 1990, is an internationally renowned scientist in tsetse- and vector-borne diseases and their control. Together, she and Murilla will research tsetse-transmitted disease control.

This is not the first time the two have closely collaborated. Since 2004, they have worked together on numerous occasions to initiate training activities for students and scholars in the region. To date, they have supported the education of 10 Ph.D. scientists and one master’s student in East Africa, provided short-term training of several scholars at Yale, and conducted numerous skill-building workshops offered in Kenya and Uganda to students and KWS scientists in tsetse biology, control, and disease management.

To learn more about Aksoy and her team, and to get ongoing updates on their research on the tsetse fly, visit the Aksoy Labs.

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