Researchers cooperate to tame the spread of communicable diseases in Africa 

The University of the Witwatersrand has partnered with the University of Dundee in Scotland to explore new pathways to fight infectious diseases — which are caused by the spread of microorganisms.   

The two hosted an online seminar on Wednesday, April 12, that discussed the use of new scientific approaches to tackle communicable diseases in ​​the continent. Furthermore, the institutions are looking at opportunities to collaborate in areas of drug development.

The African continent has been lagging behind first world countries in terms of health care for infectious diseases such as TB, Malaria and Covid-19 — the lack of proper health care facilities and drugs make these diseases difficult to treat. In addition, the region has a higher burden of infectious diseases as compared to other continents. 

The Africa Centre for Communicable Diseases reported in 2019 that the African region has more cases of TB and deaths compared to the rest of the globe. Source: Africa Centre for Communicable Diseases

According to a 2019 report from the World Health Organisation, 37% of people lose productivity due to noncommunicable diseases, while 27% are due to infectious diseases. This essentially means that people are not able to sustain themselves and contribute towards their country’s economy as they are too sick to do anything because of the lack of proper health care systems.  

Professor Lynn Morris, vice-principal at Wits University said they hosted the webinar because they wanted to get a sense of how they can really take this mutual interest in ​​the collaboration of drug development and make it work. The Scotland institution has identified gaps in the healthcare sector and want to contribute to make it to function better, she said.  

Professor Ian Gilbert of the drug discovery unit at the university of Dundee said that they want to “develop drug discovery pathway[s]” for infectious diseases because for many of these illnesses, there’s never been an integrated drug discovery process. He added that they also want to equip the effectiveness in drug discovery. 

The research collaboration aims to take the science and translate it into a clinical opportunity. This means getting new drugs as a cause of treatment to patients to reduce the risk of diseases developing into chronic illnesses— as well as to reduce the huge number of deaths. 

Featured Image: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says taking Truvada on a daily basis reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90%. Photo: File

Related Articles:

Wits Vuvuzela, May 2022

Wits Vuvuzela,, February 2019