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On 03rd December 2020, host Hon. Ambassador of the United States of America to Tanzania Hon. Donald J. Wright visited the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST). Ambassador Donald wanted to familiarize with the institution particularly the progress of the Bush meat Project which is a capacity building project intended to assess Global Health Risks Associated with Bush meat Consumption in Tanzania funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) of USA amounting to $2.5M for three years from.

In his address, Ambassador Wright remarked “I am grateful for the good job so far! Most of you don't know my background but actually I am an American Doctor, so I truly understand what you say. In fact one health especially Zoonotic Diseases field is one of the important areas that needs rigorous research, and as you pointed out, COVIT 19 is a good example that poses such a great need for continuous research is the area. I appreciate the good job you are doing in terms of partnerships and collaborations that are geared at solving real life challenges to the community. It is really a good job worth commending.

The Bush meat project was led by Prof. Joram Buza (NM-AIST) and Prof. Vivek Kapur (Pennsylvania State University, USA). Other partner Institutions include: Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), the National Health Laboratory, BecA-ILRI hub, TAWIRI, TANAPA, Lincoln Park Zoo, USA. After a brief overview Ambassador D. J. Write expressed his heart field appreciation to the project team and institutions for a job well done.

The project aimed at investigating the global health hazards associated with consumption of bush meat, by focusing on three bio threats; Bacillus anthracis which cause anthrax, Brucella spp. which cause Brucellosis and Coxiella burnetti which cause Q-fever. The research confirmed presence of nucleic acid signatures of the three pathogens in bush meat collected from Serengeti, Ruaha and Selous Ecosystem. Details of the findings can be found in the following publications:

  1. Katani et al, (2019). Microbial Diversity in Bushmeat Samples Recovered from the Serengeti Ecosystem in Tanzania. Nature Scientific Reports volume 9, Article number: 18086
  2. Buza et al., 2019. iMAP: an integrated bioinformatics and visualization pipeline for microbiome data analysis. BMC Bioinformatics 20: 374. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12859-019-2965-4
  3. Schilling, M et al., (2019). Molecular species identification of bushmeat recovered from the Serengeti ecosystem in Tanzania. PLoS ONE 15(9): e0237590.
  4. Katani et al., 2020. Identification of B. anthracis, brucella spp., and Coxiella spp. DNA signatures in bushmeat. Nature Scientific Reports (submitted).

In his welcoming note, the Vice Chancellor of the NM-AIST, Prof. Emmanuel J. Luoga thanked the Government of USA for supporting to Tanzania research through various grants. He also extended his gratitude DTRA for funding the bush meat project and finally thanked US partner institutions for their continued support in terms of strengthening research and innovations at the NM-AIST.

Professor Luoga highlighted that the NM-AIST is a Pan-African Postgraduate, Science based University that was initiated in 2009 and started admitting students in 2011. Having such support is very important in order to live the intended dream. Currently the University has a total of 500 students and 210 staff. The University has 4 Schools and 3 Centers of Excellence where most academic affairs including research and Innovation are conducted. These Schools are;

  1. Life Science and Bio-Engineering (LiSBE)
  2. Computational and communication Science and Engineering (CoCSE)
  3. Material, Energy, Water and Environmental Science (MEWES)
  4. Business Studies and Humanities (BuSH)
  5. and details of the programmes are found on the website: www.nm-aist.ac.tz

In addressing the issue of Research and Innovations, the University has various partners from various parts of the world including the United States of America (USA) the list bellow shows some partners from USA as itemized below.

S/N Project Name/Title Collaborating University/Institution Project duration (Start and End date) Funding Agency
1 Project for Enhancing the Health and Productivity of Livestock (PEPHL)e Penn State and Washington Universities Nov. 2015 to Nov. 2019 Bill &Melinda Gates Foundation
2 Trial to establish causal linkage between Mycotoxins exposure and child stunting (Mycotoxins Mitigation Trial-MMT) Cornel University June 2017 to June 2022 Bill &Melinda Gates Foundation
3 Singida Nutrition and Agro ecological Project (SNAP) Cornel University Nov. 2015 to Nov. 2019 McKnight Foundation
4 Bush Meat Pen state University Nov 2016 to Nov. 2019 Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA)
5 Raising crop response: Bidirectional learning to catalyze sustainable Intensification at multiple scales Washington State University Oct. 2015 to Sept. 2019 USAID
6 Strengthening African Food Processors to Reduce Losses (SAP). Purdue University August 2018 to February 2021 Rockefeller Foundation
7 Training, production and testing of high quality face shields and face masks (NP95) for COVID-19 protection Worcester Polytechnic Institute June 2020 To date Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI)
8 Joint USA-Africa Materials Institute. A summer school for graduate and Post-doc students between USA and Eastern Africa in Materials and Energy Science and Engineering. Northwestern University, Columbia University Since 2012 to date (Bi annual event) NSF

The University extends heartfelt appreciations to the Government of the USA for collaboration and funding of research projects as shown on table 1 above. It is our sincere hope that this collaboration will be extended in future for the benefit of the two countries,

On behalf of partners Project Principle investigator at the NM-AIST, Prof. Joram Buza thanked the Ambassador Donald J. Writ for visiting the NM-AIST and particularly the Bush Meat project. He explained the importance of more funding in order to help the team work on the questions that rose after the project outputs.

Prof. Buza added that, the Bush meat project was an initial exploratory research where we detected nucleic acid signatures of important pathogens; more research needed to obtain details on risk factors and diseases dynamics in wildlife and people. The project ended in March 2019 but we have submitted new project proposal for consideration. Prof. Joram Buza revealed.

Finally the Ambassador Donald J. Wright visited the laboratory complex to see how bush meat project was undertaken. H appreciated the modern laboratory facilities which were bought under same funding and promised that the government of USA and its institutions will continue supporting such life changing projects in order to improve lives on many Tanzanian.

The Ambassador of the United States of America to Tanzania, Hon. Dr. Donald J. Write Visiting the Bushmeat project Laboratory

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