By Science Africa Team (Sharon Atieno, Christabel Arina and Alfred Nyakinda)

The 9th KEMRI Annual Scientific and Health (KASH) conference begins from 13th to 15th February 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya. The three day conference with the theme: Leveraging & Strengthening Research for Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in Kenya is expected to be officially opened by Sicily Kariuki, the Cabinet Secretary for Health.

According to Prof. Yeri Kombe, director general-Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), the theme underpins the critical role of research in the attainment of UHC and KEMRI is committed to playing its role in ensuring this realization which is one of Kenya’s Government’s big four agenda priority areas.

The director-general noted that the conference comes at a time when KEMRI celebrates 40 years since its establishment in 1979 as a leading biomedical research institute.

The opening session will include a keynote address on Enhancing Kenya’s Preparedness for Emerging Infectious Diseases delivered by Prof. Njenga Kariuki, a Chief Research officer and Professor at Washington State University.

The conference has attracted over 500 participants and over 100 abstracts will include various scientific sessions and symposia focusing on solutions to the challenges of different diseases and related problems.

The conference is open to research scientists, health professionals and diploma, graduate and postgraduate students undertaking scientific and health related causes.

“The KASH Conference is still a perfect platform especially for young researchers to disseminate their research findings, to network and build or strengthen new and or existing collaboration and partnerships,” said Prof. Charles Mbogo, Chairman KASH Committee.

“The conference also provides a great opportunity for sharing good practice, cross-learning and mentorship of upcoming young scientists to look at current health challenges, test suggested solutions and make firm recommendations for policy,” he added.

The sessions and symposia will focus on HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria, microbiology, parasitic infections and entomology, traditional medicine and drug development, maternal and child health, non-communicable diseases, neglected tropical diseases, public health and health systems. These reflect on the new direction that the institute is taking.

Prof. Shigenu Kohno, President of Nagasaki University, will also be presenting a key paper on advances made in the management of infectious diseases that have developed drug resistance.

He will provide insight into efforts made in the treatment of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, such as early detection of resistance and development of new drugs, as well as the status of diseases such as pneumonia and fungal infections in Asia.

Dr. Ben Andagalu, a leading malaria researcher will highlight the dangers of artemisin-resistant malaria strains detected in Southeast Asia and the risk they pose should they spread to Africa.

Dr.Lillian Musila will make a presentation on antibiotic resistance in Kenya. The paper will present the findings of a four-year study into the characteristics of drug resistant pathogens and reveal current trends such as the means through which hospital acquired infections are spread.

Dr. Ahmed Kalebi,Consultant Pathologist, founder and head of Lancet Group Laboratories in East Africa, will focus on the importance of adequate financing of laboratory services in the realization of UHC.

During the fourth symposium, KEMRI’s Natural Products Research and Drug Development Programme (NAPREDA) will bring together stakeholders to discuss the contribution of medicines from natural products to UHC. It shall feature presentations from Dr. Chris Anjili on the potential of pyrethrum in controlling sand flies and Jack Githae, one of Kenya’s top herbalists will discuss the role of African Traditional Medicine in prevention and management of non-infectious and neglected diseases in Kenya.

Other presentations will be on development and evaluation of Rift Valley Fever test kits, assessment of Rabies and health burden from dog bites, updates on cervical cancer vaccine, hospital acquired infections, examining the affordability of hypertension care in Kenyan hospitals, laminated chipboard improving thermal comfort in newborn resuscitation and innovative open source approaches to auctioning clinical data management.

KASH which was launched in 2010 has the mission to mainstream the scientific and health agenda of KEMRI by dissemination, sharing and digesting various scientific outputs and other allied products including networking and strengthening partnerships and collaborations with view to improving on health and quality of life of the country’s citizens.