South African researchers fighting TB and malaria are among 81 international recipients of a new round of Gates Foundation grants announced on Monday.
The foundation makes the grants, worth US $100 000 (nearly R850 000) each, to explore what it calls "bold and largely unproven" ways to improve health in developing countries.
It said one of the South Africans, Boitumelo Semete of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, would use the cash to work with collaborators to develop "sticky nanoparticles" that attached to TB-infected cells. Once taken in by these cells, the tiny particles would slowly degrade, releasing anti-TB drugs.
The team hoped this novel drug delivery system would boost the amount of drug that became available to the body where it was needed, possibly shortening treatment period and reducing side effects.
The other South African grant would go to Walter Focke of the University of Pretoria who was seeking to improve the effectiveness of anti-malaria insecticides. He would study whether combining insecticides normally sprayed inside buildings with paint to create a anti-mosquito "whitewash" could slow down their natural degradation.
The foundation said other researchers among the 81 would explore a range of new ideas, including giving mosquitoes a "head cold" to prevent them from detecting and biting humans; developing a tomato to deliver antiviral drugs; and using a laser to enhance the effect of vaccines.
Diagnose malaria with magnets
Researchers at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom would try to build an inexpensive, battery-powered instrument to diagnose malaria by using magnets to detect the waste-products of the malaria parasite in human blood samples.
A researcher at the University of North Dakota in the United States would seek to immunise cattle against mosquitoes. Mosquitoes that bit an immunised cow might then die or have reduced ability to reproduce. – (Sapa, May 2009)