AAS Open Research

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EISSN : 25159321
Current Publisher: F1000 Research Ltd (10.12688)
Total articles ≅ 103
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Published: 26 June 2020
AAS Open Research; doi:10.12688/aasopenres

AAS Open Research is an innovative open access publishing platform offering rapid publication and open peer review, whilst supporting data deposition and sharing.
Helena Shilomboleni
Published: 26 June 2020
AAS Open Research, Volume 3; doi:10.12688/aasopenres.13078.1

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the fragility of our food systems. Despite increased efficiencies in producing and supplying large volumes of food, our current food systems have generated multiple adverse outcomes comprising high greenhouse gas emissions, persistent hunger, and livelihood stress for farmers around the world. Nowhere else than in Africa have large numbers of people experienced more acutely these adverse shocks emanating from our food systems. Thus, building more resilient African food systems, which take a radical change of direction, is fundamentally a matter of survival. While there is broad consensus around a need for transformational change in food systems, what that entails is not always clear, and there are divergent views amongst experts on how to re-orient research priorities and agricultural solutions in ways that effectively address hunger and inequality while also protecting agrobiodiversity and the environment more broadly. This article engages with this debate and proposes an agricultural research for development agenda in Africa that balances technology transfer with realigning societal values, institutional arrangements, and policy decision-making towards the realization of greater sustainability and inclusive outcomes.
Damalie Nakanjako, Flavia Zalwango, Pamela Wairagala, Fiona Luboga, Irene Andia Biraro, Victoria Diana Bukirwa, Mary Gorrethy Mboowa, Steve Cose, Janet Seeley, Alison Elliott
Published: 24 June 2020
AAS Open Research, Volume 3; doi:10.12688/aasopenres.13066.1

Background: The Makerere University/Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) Centre of Excellence for Infection & Immunity Research and Training (MUII) is a collaborative programme supporting excellence in Infection and Immunity (I&I) research in Uganda. Set up in 2008, MUII aims to produce internationally competitive Ugandan and East African I&I research leaders, and develop human and infrastructural resources to support research and training excellence. We undertook an internal evaluation of MUII’s achievements, challenges and lessons learned between August 2008 and December 2019, to inform programmes seeking to build Africa’s health research expertise. Methods: Quantitative data were abstracted from programme annual reports. Qualitative data were obtained in March and April 2019: a cross-sectional evaluation was undertaken among a purposefully selected representative sample of 27 trainees and two programme staff. Qualitative data was analysed according to pre-determined themes of achievements, challenges, lessons learned and recommendations for improvement. Results: By December 2019, MUII had supported 68 fellowships at master’s-level and above (50% female: 23 Masters, 27 PhD, 15 post-doctoral, three group-leader fellows) and over 1,000 internships. Fellows reported career advancement, mentorship by experts, and improved research skills and outputs. Fellows have published over 300 papers, secured grants worth over £20m, established over 40 international collaborations, and taken on research and academic leadership positions in the country. Key lessons for success include the following: efficient administration provides an enabling environment; institutions need supportive policies for procurement, including provisions for purchases of specific biological research reagents from international manufacturers; strong international, multi-disciplinary collaboration provides a critical mass of expertise to mentor researchers in development; and mentorship catalyses young scientists to progress from graduate trainees to productive academic researchers, relevant to society’s most pressing health challenges. Conclusions: Sustainable academic productivity can be achieved through efficient operational support, global collaboration and mentorship to provide solutions to Africa’s health challenges.
Joseph Okello Mugisha, Janet Seeley
Published: 23 June 2020
AAS Open Research, Volume 3; doi:10.12688/aasopenres.13049.1

Background: It is not clear whether village health teams (VHTs) can be empowered to participate in interventions to prevent and control hypertension and diabetes in older adults in Uganda. We conducted this study in rural Uganda to establish the experiences of VHTs in managing older adults with health problems, their knowledge of hypertension and diabetes and their understanding of referral systems. We also explored their experiences with smartphones and whether VHTs could be effectively trained to use a smartphone-guided intervention to link older adults with hypertension and diabetes mellitus to care. Methods: We conducted in-depth interviews (IDIs) with and trained 20 VHTs randomly selected from Bukulula sub-county in Kalungu district from October 2017-December 2018. We used interview guides to explore topics relevant to our study objectives. VHTs were trained to measure blood sugar and blood pressure using digital machines. VHTs were trained on identifying symptoms of diabetes mellitus. Data from IDIs were analysed using thematic content analysis. Competence tests were used to evaluate the training. Results: Most of the VHTs were female (75%). All VHTs had some knowledge on hypertension and diabetes and other chronic diseases. They did not have any experience in treating older adults since they had been trained to deal mainly with children. Half of the VHTs owned smartphones. All were willing to participate in an intervention using a smartphone to link older adults with hypertension and diabetes mellitus to care. By the end of the training, all but three participants could comprehend the symptoms of diabetes and measure blood sugar and blood pressure. Conclusion: Village health teams in the study setting need training in managing the health needs of older adults before engaging with an intervention using smartphones to link older adults with diabetes mellitus and hypertension to care.
Samuel Kekeli Agordzo, Kingsley Badu, Mathew Glover Addo, Christian Kwasi Owusu, Abdul-Hakim Mutala, Austine Tweneboah, Dawood Ackom Abbas, Nana Kwame Ayisi-Boateng
Published: 17 June 2020
AAS Open Research, Volume 2; doi:10.12688/aasopenres.13022.2

Background: Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate, intracellular, apicomplexan parasite that causes toxoplasmosis. Although the global prevalence of toxoplasmosis has been estimated to be approximately 30%, there is limited seroprevalence data in Ghana, with a dearth of information on the impact of T. gondii on haematological parameters in exposed persons. Methods: Questionnaires were administered to 300 consenting individuals to obtain demographic information and assessment of their risk of exposure to T. gondii. Using anti- T. gondii IgG/IgM combo test kits, seropositivity to parasite-specific IgG and/or IgM was determined. A haematological analyser was used to measure haematological parameters. Results: There was an overall seroprevalence of 50.3% (n=151), with 49.7% (n=149) of the study participants seropositive for IgG and 1% (n=3) testing positive for IgM. Furthermore, the observed seroprevalence among pregnant women was 56.4% (n=62). With regard to settlement type, a seroprevalence of 55.6% was observed in the rural community, 50.6% in the peri-urban community and 47.1% in the urban community. The study identified cat ownership, contact with cat litter, contact with raw meat [RR (95% CI: 1.76 (1.23-2.53), 1.66 (1.03-2.67), 1.25(1.00-1.57)] and age (p Conclusions: About half of the study population, including women of reproductive age carried antibodies against T. gondii, raising concerns about the risk of congenital toxoplasmosis and anaemia. We, therefore, recommend that screening for Toxoplasma gondii be included in the routine screening of pregnant women seeking antenatal care and further investigation should be conducted on the haematological implications of infection in humans.
Paulina O. Tindana, Jantina De Vries, Dorcas Kamuya
Published: 11 June 2020
AAS Open Research, Volume 3; doi:10.12688/aasopenres.13084.1

Community engagement (CE) has been highlighted as a key process in the prevention and transmission control of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). However, the nature of the virus and national response strategies such as social distancing have challenged traditional methods of community engagement. In this paper, we discuss the role of community engagement in research during COVID-19. We first set out the case for community engagement that emerges from international guidance for research during public health emergencies. We then describe the challenges that are emerging with community engagement in health research generally, and on COVID-19 related research specifically in Africa in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. We further describe the strengths and weaknesses of the current engagement and communication platforms, and suggest ways to overcome some of these challenges. We provide an ethical argument for researchers and research institutions to respond directly to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic by responding to emergency health care needs of the community; and provide some challenges and critiques of such an approach. Finally, we support the call for concerted efforts in responding to the global pandemic, requiring flexibility in funding.
Abdul-Hakim Mutala, Kingsley Badu, Christian Owusu, Samuel Kekeli Agordzo, Austine Tweneboah, Abbas Dawood Ackom, Matthew Glover Addo
Published: 5 June 2020
AAS Open Research, Volume 2; doi:10.12688/aasopenres.12979.2

Background: We aimed at investigating the impact of malaria on the haematological parameters of residents from different demographic settlements in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. Malaria parasites trigger changes in certain haematological parameters, which may result in a number of clinical manifestations. Differences in demographic settlements, such as rural, peri-urban and urban settlements may also influence these changes, but this has not been extensively studied in Ghana. Methods: We conducted a hospital-based, cross-sectional study from January to December 2018 in three different settlements. A total of 598 participants were recruited. Blood smears were examined to detect and quantify malaria parasitaemia, while haematological parameters were measured using a haematology analyser. Results: Participants from the rural settlement had the highest malaria prevalence (21.3%) compared to the urban (11.8%) and peri-urban areas (13.3%); however, the peri-urban area had the highest median parasite density (568; IQR=190.0-1312.0). Age was significantly associated with the odds of malaria positivity (OR: 0.97; CI:0.96 — 0.99). When haematological parameters of the malaria-infected study participants were compared to the parameters of uninfected participants, red blood cell count (p=0.017), haemoglobin (p=0.0165), haematocrit (p=0.0015), mean corpuscular volume (p=0.0014), plateletcrit (p Conclusions: Study participants who were positive for malaria were younger and had low haemoglobin and plateletcrit levels compared to uninfected individuals. Further studies are needed to more precisely elucidate the relationship between malaria infection,demographic and haematological parameters.
Obed Matundura Ogega, Moses Alobo
Published: 3 June 2020
AAS Open Research, Volume 3; doi:10.12688/aasopenres.13074.1

Background: Malaria remains a global challenge with approximately 228 million cases and 405,000 malaria-related deaths reported in 2018 alone; 93% of which were in sub-Saharan Africa. Aware of the critical role than environmental factors play in malaria transmission, this study aimed at assessing the relationship between precipitation, temperature, and clinical malaria cases in E. Africa and how the relationship may change under 1.5 oC and 2.0 oC global warming levels (hereinafter GWL1.5 and GWL2.0, respectively). Methods: A correlation analysis was done to establish the current relationship between annual precipitation, mean temperature, and clinical malaria cases. Differences between annual precipitation and mean temperature value projections for periods 2008-2037 and 2023-2052 (corresponding to GWL1.5 and GWL2.0, respectively), relative to the control period (1977-2005), were computed to determine how malaria transmission may change under the two global warming scenarios. Results: A predominantly positive/negative correlation between clinical malaria cases and temperature/precipitation was observed. Relative to the control period, no major significant changes in precipitation were shown in both warming scenarios. However, an increase in temperature of between 0.5 oC and 1.5 oC and 1.0 oC to 2.0 oC under GWL1.5 and GWL2.0, respectively, was recorded. Hence, more areas in E. Africa are likely to be exposed to temperature thresholds favourable for increased malaria vector abundance and, hence, potentially intensify malaria transmission in the region. Conclusions: GWL1.5 and GWL2.0 scenarios are likely to intensify malaria transmission in E. Africa. Ongoing interventions should, therefore, be intensified to sustain the gains made towards malaria elimination in E. Africa in a warming climate.
Stella Kabiri
Published: 28 May 2020
AAS Open Research, Volume 3; doi:10.12688/aasopenres.13065.1

Background: Almost all nitrogenous (N) fertilizers are fixed on an enormous scale using the Haber-Bosch ammonia synthesis process via a reaction of Nitrogen with hydrogen in the presence of a catalyst. This process is a leading global polluter, emitting 830 megatons of CO2 to the atmosphere annually. On the other hand, the global transport sector emits 7.5 gigatons of CO2 yet the fraction of emissions from freight transportation of N fertilizers from exporting countries to the East African (EA) Bloc is not known. This study examined the carbon footprint from freight transportation of N fertilizers. The findings are useful in the regions’ nationally determined contributions (NDCs) as per the Paris Agreement of December 2015 regarding downsizing emissions from the transport sector. Methods: The study area included five EA Community (EAC) countries namely, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. Statistics of fertilizers were obtained from https://africafertilizer.org/. The carbon footprint calculator (CFC) for fertilizer production (obtained from https://www.fertilizerseurope.com/), certified by the Carbon Trust Standard, was used. Results: Over 93% of fertilizers imported to the EA Bloc are N fertilizers, leaving a carbon footprint of 4.9 megatons CO2-eq. Of these emissions, 1.1 megatons CO2-eq were contributed by imports from Saudi Arabia and 0.8 megatons CO2-eq from China. The ‘dirtiest’ of N fertilizers that accounted for the highest carbon footprint on the EA bloc were urea ammonium nitrate, calcium nitrate, nitrophosphates and ammonium sulphate. Conclusions: Every metric ton of N imported results in a carbon footprint of 4.5 metric tons CO2-eq. The Ammonia production process of exporting countries, freight distance, choice and number of N fertilizers imported are significant determinants of greenhouse gas emissions to East Africa’s NDCs. To reach net-zero emissions the EA community needs to invest in new processes, circular economy and decarbonization pathways.
Kevin O. Kidambasi, Daniel K. Masiga, Jandouwe Villinger, Mark Carrington, Joel Bargul
Published: 20 May 2020
AAS Open Research, Volume 2; doi:10.12688/aasopenres.13021.2

Background: Major constraints to camel production include pests and diseases. In northern Kenya, little information is available about blood-borne pathogens circulating in one-humped camels ( Camelus dromedarius) or their possible transmission by the camel haematophagous ectoparasite, Hippobosca camelina, commonly known as camel ked or camel fly. This study aimed to: (i) identify the presence of potentially insect-vectored pathogens in camels and camel keds, and (ii) assess the potential utility of keds for xenodiagnosis of camel pathogens that they may not vector. Methods: In Laisamis, northern Kenya, camel blood samples (n = 249) and camel keds (n = 117) were randomly collected from camels. All samples were screened for trypanosomal and camelpox DNA by PCR, and for Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, Brucella, Coxiella, Theileria, and Babesia by PCR coupled with high-resolution melting (PCR-HRM) analysis. Results: In camels, we detected Trypanosoma vivax (41%), Trypanosoma evansi (1.2%), and “ Candidatus Anaplasma camelii” (68.67%). In camel keds, we also detected T. vivax (45.3%), T. evansi (2.56%), Trypanosoma melophagium (1/117) (0.4%), and “ Candidatus Anaplasma camelii” (16.24 %). Piroplasms ( Theileria spp. and Babesia spp.), Coxiella burnetii, Brucella spp., Ehrlichia spp., and camel pox were not detected in any samples. Conclusions: This study reveals the presence of epizootic pathogens in camels from northern Kenya. Furthermore, the presence of the same pathogens in camels and in keds collected from sampled camels suggests the potential use of these flies in xenodiagnosis of haemopathogens circulating in camels.
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