Research by GHI Associate Director Tony Goldberg Reveals Relationship Between a Virus, a Parasite and an African Bat.

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If there is anything scientists are certain of when it comes to bats and their supposed role in causing human disease, it is that they still have a lot to learn.

Aside from well-established things like rabies virus, SARS coronavirus (the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome) and Marburg virus (an extremely dangerous but rare hemorrhagic fever pathogen), bats appear to carry a plethora of other germs with unclear effects, if any, on human health.

And even some commonly believed bat paradigms may be incorrect. For example, some speculate that bats play a role in the transmission of Ebola simply because Ebola and Marburg are related pathogens. But scientific evidence to support such speculation is scant, at best.

A lack of evidence that bats are key reservoirs of human disease has not prevented their vilification or efforts to exterminate bat colonies where threats are presumed to lurk.

“The fact is that they provide important ecosystem services – insect control, pollination and seed dispersal, to name a few – and we want them around,” says Tony Goldberg, a University of Wisconsin-Madison epidemiologist and virus hunter. “But bats are also increasingly acknowledged as hosts of medically significant viruses. I have mixed feelings about that.”

To better understand the dynamics of bats and potential threats to human health, Goldberg and his colleagues explored the relationship of an African forest bat, a novel virus and a parasite. Their work, described in a report published July 13 in Nature Scientific Reports, identifies all three players as potentially new species, at least at the molecular level as determined by their genetic sequences.

Many viral pathogens often have more than one or two hosts or intermediate hosts needed to complete their life cycles. The role of bat parasites in maintaining chains of viral infection is little studied, and the new Wisconsin study serves up some intriguing insights into how viruses co-opt parasites to help do the dirty work of disease transmission.

The parasite in the current study is an eyeless, wingless fly, technically an ectoparasite. It depends on the bat to be both its eyes and wings. And it plays host to a virus, as the current study shows. For the virus, the fly plays the role of chauffeur. “From a virus’s perspective, an ectoparasite is like Uber. It’s a great way to get around – from animal to animal – at minimal expense and effort,” Goldberg explains.

The bat in the study belongs to the megabat suborder. It is a fruit bat and was trapped, tested and released by Goldberg’s colleague and study co-author Robert Kityo of Uganda’s Makerere University in Kampala.

The bat fly, according to the new study, was infected with a newly discovered rhabdovirus dubbed Kanyawara virus, a distant relative of the rabies virus. “These things were chock-full of the virus,” says Goldberg, a professor of pathobiological sciences at UW-Madison’s School of Veterinary Medicine. That said, he adds that “we don’t know if this virus is transmitted beyond the ectoparasite. We couldn’t find it in the bat. Maybe it is an insect virus.”

However, it is well known that ectoparasites transmit disease, says the Wisconsin epidemiologist, noting that things like ticks and fleas harbor important pathogens like typhus, bubonic plague, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

“Bat flies bite people if given the chance,” Goldberg says of the parasite, which he described as “shockingly large, leggy and fast – a parasite from hell.”

The report published this week notes that rare cases of human infection with bat-associated viruses remain enigmatic. The study cites the 1969 case of a British dockworker bitten by an unknown insect while unloading peanuts from Nigeria, and who was subsequently infected by Le Dantec virus, a relative of the virus Goldberg and his colleagues found in abundance in the bat flies they sampled. “Was the dockworker bitten by a bat fly? We’ll never know.”

The subtext of the research, according to Goldberg, is Ebola and the ecology of disease. Scientists are beginning to understand that serious pathogens like Ebola and SARS don’t come out of nowhere. They are already lurking in the environment, and the leap from an animal to a human can be just a matter of time and an organism’s ability to shift from one host to another.

“The big picture relevance of the research is that if we’re going to understand the diversity of viruses in the world, we need to look in unusual places,” Goldberg says. “We have a lot to learn about the basic distribution of species on the planet.”

By Terry Devitt, UW-Madison/ July 13, 2017

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Celebrating Independence Across Africa: YALI Fellows Emerencia Nguarambuka, Marcio Brito, and Omari Mahiza reflect on the meaning of Independence

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This story was originally posted July 10 by the African Studies Program 

Over the 4th of July holiday our 2017 Mandela Washington Fellows joined in the celebration of American independence with a bit of BBQ, baseball, and fireworks. Afterwards, three fellows took a moment to reflect on the commemorations of independence in their home countries and to explain the meaning of these celebrations.

Emerencia Nguarambuka: Celebrating freedom in Namibia on March 21st

Independence is freedom, democracy and growth. It means being able to live peacefully, and coexist in harmony, respect for fellow human beings and fighting for equal rights for all humanity, regardless of sex, creed, race, color, religion, etc. It also means having equal access to resources, closing the inequality and poverty gap.

Independence means a second chance and making use of all opportunities the right way. This is especially important to me because prior to an independent Namibia, we were not allowed education, work, free movement, and so much other social stuff. Now we have a chance to redefine our future, and let our children grow up in a better environment with greater opportunities.

Image submitted by Emerencia Nguarambuka

In Namibia, independence is celebrated on the 21st of March. Namibia gained independence from South Africa in 1990. We were colonized since the late 19th century. From 1884, Namibia was a German colony known as German South West Africa. After the First World War, South Africa was mandated to administer Namibia as a colony/territory.

To celebrate the holiday, traditional performances and artists provide music and dance throughout the day and after the main event. There are parades by the Defense Force (army), Air Force and the marines, which are inspected by the President and given honors. Previous heroes and heroines are also honored and receive special badges in honor of their role for the fight of independence.

School children also have plays and parades at the Independence Day, which adds more color to the event. At times we also have parachutes as part of the celebrations. The Government will provide small promotional materials such as paper flags and t-shirts to the public for free. Each five year independence (I.e. 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 years) is always a bigger celebration held in the capital city Windhoek and the President invites dignitaries and international friends from countries which helped Namibia attain independence.

Image submitted by Emerencia Nguarambuka

WINDHOEK, 22 March 2015 – Young Namibians celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Independence held at Independence Stadium. (Photo by: Joseph Nekaya) NAMPA

After the big event, other regions can also hold delayed independence celebrations for those people who could not travel all the way to the capital city. Food and entertainment is provided. Normally various Ministers will be assigned to these regions to deliver the President’s independence message.

Free Transport is normally provided to all who want to attend the celebrations in order to attract as many people as possible.

Prior to independence celebrations, all media normally carries news and video articles related to independence, focusing on development in the country, as well as interviewing heroes and heroines who can tell their stories of their time fighting for independence.

 

Marcio Brito: An independent Cape Verde honors Amilcar Cabral on July 5

Cape Verde received its independence from Portugal on the 5th of July in 1975. On the 4th of July, young people host parties in anticipation of the July 5th holiday, people meet up with family and share meals. There’s also a festival and military parade where the president gives medals to officers. Independence celebrations in Cape Verde are about commemorating the birth of a liberated country. They’re also about celebrating the father of Cape Verde – Amilcar Cabral.

Wall painting honoring Amilcar Cabral

Cabral was born on the 12th of September (another national holiday) in Bafata, Guinea-Bissau and was assassinated in 1973, two years before Cape Verde gained independence. His efforts, along with members of the African Party of Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (P.A.I.G.C.) helped instill dignity in a population who recognized the evident discrimination against them by Portugal, despite the country’s claims that its colonies could “never be separate.”

After the 1974 death of the Portuguese president and dictator and a military coup, the years 1974-1976 marked the independence of the former Portuguese colonies, with Guinea-Bissau being the first nation to receive its independence.

Since its independence, Cape Verde has grown from having a population where 80% of its citizens were unschooled to its current place as a nation with an educated population of 95% gaining access to a basic right that had been denied by the imperial Portuguese powers.

UN Mission in the Cape Verde Islands

Omari Mahiza: From two countries to one independent Tanzania on December 9th

I am from Tanzania. My independence day is on the 9th of December. Before Independence day – before Tanzania – there were two different counties. One is an island, that is Zanzibar and the other one is the mainland, that was called Tanganyika. So these two places came together and together (in 1964) they formed the country now that is known as Tanzania. So, that day these two countries came together – that’s called Union Day. It’s usually on the 26th of April. But, there is another date that is known as Revolution Day, which is celebrated in Zanzibar. They went through a revolution before their independence. This is known as Revolution Day which is on the 12th of January.

Cloth commemorating the life of Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere. African Studies Collection.

Starting with Independence day, usually there’s a big parade, usually there is an announcement of where the year’s celebration is going to take place so we all know where we need to gather. Usually, it takes place in the National Stadium in Dar el Salaam. Recently it’s been moved around so it can be anywhere, really. People go dressed in flags. You find that all the armed forces are there – the police, army, the navy – everyone will be there. There’ll be a parade, where all those forces pass in front of the president. They salute the president and put on a show for everyone. It’s free, so everyone can attend.

There’s a speech from the president who might wait a whole year to say something specifically for Independence day with regards to workers rights or something which is big. Usually it’s just a celebration of where we’ve been, so we remind ourselves where we were – we got our independence in 1961 from the British. So usually we remind ourselves where we were, where we are right now, and where we want to go.

Fifty-something years after independence I think we’re still struggling with the same things that we were struggling with like fifty years ago. Some of the issues have actually become worse than they were fifty years ago, if you can imagine that. So, what independence means to me, is at least, more freedom of expression these days. I think mostly it means the freedom of expression – people can say I am this – and most of the time not being persecuted. It’s still a challenge, there are certain issues where we are not there yet, but you can see that we are trying. Freedom of speech, freedom of expression is what independence should be.

4th of July Mallards game. Photo by Meagan Doll

Emerencia Nguarambuka (Namibia) is an Executive Assistant to the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of ICT and does her own charity work in her community by assisting poor, young vulnerable women and children through donations of basic items.

Márcio Brito (Cabo Verde) works in the ‘Rádio e Tecnologias Educativas ‘ RTE’ where he produces and presents a daily program from 8 to 11 o’clock in the morning from Monday to Friday.

Omari Mahiza (Tanzania) is a doctor employed by the government to work at Amana Hospital in the pediatrics department.

-by Hiwot Adilow

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The Global Health Institute joins other campus partners to develop curriculum for 2017 Mandela Washington Fellowship

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-This story was originally posted by the African Studies Program

In mid-June, the University of Wisconsin-Madison will welcome 25 young African leaders to campus, representing 20 countries and diverse professional fields including healthcare, law, journalism, social services, human rights and public administration.

The African Studies Program has released the names and biographies of the 25 young leaders who will spend six weeks on the UW-Madison campus as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship.

The fellowship, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, brings 1,000 leaders between the ages of 25 and 35 from across Africa to complete a six-week academic and experiential learning institute at U.S. institutions. UW-Madison will host 25 fellows, 15 women and 10 men. They will arrive on June 16.

The Global Health Institute joins other campus partners, including the African Studies Program, the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, the La Follette School of Public Affairs, the Office of Quality Improvement, the Law School and the School of Education to develop academic curriculum.

“We anticipated a high-caliber group after hosting the fellowship for the first time in summer 2016,” African Studies Program Associate Director Aleia McCord said. “Once again, we are pleased to welcome a cohort of inspirational young leaders and change makers to Wisconsin.”

For example, Emmanuella Langsi, a 2017 Fellow from Cameroon, currently serves as a child protection officer in the United Nations peacekeeping mission to the Central African Republic. In this position, Langsi advocates for policies that protect the rights of children and negotiates with armed groups for the release of child soldiers. Over the last year and a half, she estimates she has influenced the lives of more than 400 vulnerable children.

 

Sierra Leonean Fellow Abdulai Conteh has a background in mental health and psychosocial support programs. Following the 2014 Ebola crisis, which killed more than 11,000 across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, Conteh provides self-care sessions to hotline operators, burial team members and orphaned children who experienced traumatic realities on the frontlines of the outbreak. Conteh hopes to return home after the fellowship with public administration knowledge applicable to mental health delivery systems in Sierra Leone.

 

Diénéba Dème, a science journalist from Mali, has ambitious goals of her own. After working as a radio journalist, Dème is now engaged in the recruiting and training of science journalists, hoping to raise Mali’s profile as an international model for science journalism. “Malian science journalists will be among the best in the world,” she said.

When not in the classroom, learning continues through experiential site visits and community service. This year, the fellows will work with Lussier Community Education Center, River Food Pantry, Porchlight, Community GroundWorks, Badger Rock Middle School and more.

“As soon as our 2016 Mandela Fellows left, we began receiving questions about whether we would host the fellowship again,” McCord said. “We are fortunate to have a community as excited about the Fellows’ arrival as the Fellows themselves.”

Indeed, there is no shortage of excitement for the Fellows.

Dumsani Mamba will come to Madison from Swaziland and already seems to understand the value of a Madison summer. He says he is most excited about “meeting new people, being in a place I never knew existed in the United States… acquiring information and knowledge from one of the best leadership institutions and enjoying the summer in the lake.”

– By Megan Doll 6/8

For a full listing of biographies, visit the African Studies Program website here: http://africa.wisc.edu/?page_id=13436

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) and is made possible by the support of the American people through the U.S. Department of State and administered by IREX. For more information, please visit MandelaWashingtonFellowship.state.gov.

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Wisconsin Express program teaches students about health care in underserved areas.

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May 22, 2017 By Emily Hamer

A group of 75 University of Wisconsin–Madison students will be in the field May 21-26 to learn firsthand about the diversity of the state’s health care system.

As a part of the Wisconsin Express program, which is organized by the Wisconsin Area Health Education Centers, the students will travel to 11 communities across Wisconsin, learning about public health dilemmas in the state, Wisconsin Express statewide program coordinator Keri Robbins said. Students visit clinics, shadow health care professionals and participate in activities that help them learn about diverse Wisconsin communities such as, Native American tribes, Somali refugees, Amish populations, and more.

Students in the Wisconsin Express program in 2016. The program visits communities across Wisconsin to learn about public health dilemmas. Photo courtesy of AHEC

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