Last month, Ubiquitome announced the finalists of the Freedom For You grants program. The program was designed to provide support for remote qPCR projects, with each winner receiving a Freedom4 device. The ten selected finalists are receiving support from Ubiquitome in the form of Freedom4 qPCR reagents and consumables, project design consultation, and technical support, including wet lab processing. Three grant winners will receive a Freedom4 gold standard qPCR mobile device worth USD$25,000.
One of the selected finalists is Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) research officer Joseph Mwangi for his research on HIV and AIDS in Kenya.
Currently Dr Mwangi is working with a team on viral load testing and early infant diagnosis for HIV throughout Kenya. He has been working in the field of HIV for over a decade and he has recognized the need for field testing.
He started working in HIV and AIDS in 2002 and began testing for viral load and early infant diagnosis in 2006. With many published articles and a doctorate underway, Dr Mwangi is considered an expert in the field and is leading the way with his testing in Kenya.
His research is now looking into ways in which point-of-care testing can be implemented in early infant diagnosis. Having the ability to test and treat on the same day would greatly reduce the dropout rate between the testing visits and follow up treatment visit, as well as increasing an infant’s chances by either treating them as early as possible or preventing post-birth infection from HIV positive mothers. The idea of a mobile molecular testing approach is very new in Kenya and is being watched closely by major influencers.
HIV positive mothers bring their 6 week old infants to one of a number of clinics set up around Kenya for virological testing. This determines whether the child is HIV positive or not. Currently samples are sent to the central lab in Nairobi for qPCR analysis and the mothers are notified when to bring their child back to the clinic for treatment and consultation. If the child is HIV positive, they can begin treatment on this second visit and this increases the chances of survival into adulthood. If the child is HIV negative, the clinic can educate the mother on methods to prevent infecting their child and a course of care proscribed that ensures the child won’t contract the virus through activities such as breastfeeding, for example.
Africa has the highest prevalence of HIV globally with almost 70% of those with HIV living in Africa. Therefore, HIV and AIDS is a major issue for African governments. In 2013, $19.1 billion was poured into HIV and AIDS programs across the world. However, although money is being pumped into disease cure and control, the problem in Africa essentially is one of access to resources to manage illness in most of the infected individuals. Previously Dr Mwangi received funding from the National AIDS Control Council of Kenya as well as other internal institutional grants. Detecting HIV in infants is hugely important in decreasing morbidity rates as early treatment can ensure that the child survives to adulthood. Early infant diagnosis is something that the World Health Organisation (WHO) is focusing on so Dr Mwangi’s research is getting global visibility.
Dr Mwangi has many published articles on the topic of HIV dating back to 2005. His latest article, “Sexually transmitted infections: co-infections and link to variations in HIV prevalence and disease management outcomes across regions of Kenya” is representative of other articles he has written that examine the impacts of HIV and disease management on the health of the Kenyan people.
For more information on Dr Mwangi’s research click here or to view a full list of the finalists visit our website www.ubiquitomebio.com.