Dr. Atunga Nyachieo, a Kenyan scientist has obtained both phage therapy specialized
training and multiple collaborators in a foreign collaborative laboratory lead
by Dr. Jesca Nakavuma at the Makerere University, Uganda in just two weeks (2nd
-16th September, 2018) through the TYAN Collaborative Grant Award
(TCGA). TCGA is a short term funding of $ 3,000 provided by TYAN to its members
to enable them establish collaborations and scientific networking. TYAN is worldwide young scientist network of The
World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) comprising of TWAS Young Affiliates and Alumni
with administrative office in TWAS, Trieste, Italy.
Nyachieo, a young affiliate of TWAS since 2014 and TYAN member since 2016, has
been struggling with the challenge of antibiotic resistance by bacteria and
hopes to use phage as alternatives for therapy. In developing countries, antimicrobial
resistance and deaths associated with it has been rising over the years. Indeed,
its estimated that by 2050, 10 million people worldwide will die of
antimicrobial resistance out of which over 80?aths will be in developing
countries (4.15 million from Africa, 4.73 million from Asia and only 0.39
million from USA and 0.32 million from Europe (from a report on Antimicrobial
Resistance: Tackling a Crisis for the Health and Wealth of Nations, 2014).
These statistics have been the driving factor for Dr. Atunga Nyachieo’s
scientific focus on finding alternatives by working on bacteriophages (also
called Phages) for therapy.
Phages are viruses that kill bacteria. These viruses
exist naturally in the environment and co-evolve with the bacteria. They are
specific for any given bacteria and can kill both susceptible and resistance
bacteria. Dr. Nyachieo has focused on the isolation and characterization of
phages to combat antibiotic resistance E.
coli and Salmonella which are
a big challenge for livestock productivity and human health especially in East
Africa. Although this scientist has been working on these phages he lacked some
essential skills on phage host range assay, a technique that enables him to
isolate a broad spectrum phage that can kill either a wide range of E. coli
strains or Salmonella strains. He also needed to study the physico-chemical
properties of the isolated phages to understand optimal conditions of phage
lytic activity. In order to bridge this knowledge gap, Dr. Nyachieo sought to
get a collaborator in a nearby country, and luckily, he got links to Dr. Jesca
Nakavuma, a renowned microbiologist and initiator of phage research in Uganda,
based at the College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity
(COVAB) at Makerere University. Dr. Nakavuma accepted to host him but Dr.
Nyachieo lacked funding to support his travel and stay in Uganda. Thanks to
TYAN’s TCGA grant that gave him an opportunity to travel and gain the skills in
Uganda and now has gone back to his country to continue in the search of more broad-spectrum
his visit, Dr. Nyachieo worked very hard and under pressure due to the time
limit (only 2 weeks) that the grant would permit in order to produce some
useful results in line with the TCGA grant’s mission of being result oriented.
He got to learn the host range assay and physico-chemical properties assays and
during this time he isolated both E. coli
and Salmonella phages.
Nyachieo plans to further purify his newly found phages and perform genetic
characterization to ensure that they do not contain any toxic genes or
lysogenic genes before they can be used for therapy.
Nyachieo’s findings spread throughout the Makerere
University which got him an invitation to share with students and University staff
on Friday 14th September, 2018. Dr. Nyachieo gave a 1 hour lecture
and another 1 hr for questions. This excitement inspired the University staff
as well as students who are enthusiastic about phage therapy. Dr. Jesca
Nakavuma has introduced Dr. Nyachieo to her collaborators, Prof. Martha Clokie
in Leicester (UK), Dr. Elizabeth Kutter of Evergreen State College (USA) and
Dr. Tobi Nagel, the President and Founder of Phages for Global Health (USA). These collaborators will help Dr. Nyachieo to
continue with his work especially on phage purification and genetic
characterization before application for therapy.
his recent attendance to TWAS General meeting (November, 2018) in Trieste
(Italy), Dr. Nyachieo described his experience in Uganda as exciting and awesome!
He mixed well with the Ugandan people and integrated with their rich culture.
He enjoyed his stay as well as a variety of Uganda foods. Dr. Nyachieo now encourages
new TYAN scientists to apply for this TCGA grant to enhance their scientific
mobility and networking. He further said that moving to a foreign country
enables a scientist to focus on his research work without disturbance to attend
meetings or other social or administrative ties as will occur in home country.
In short, through TCGA, Dr. Nyachieo got trained, got collaborators and
inspired other scientists and students on phage research. His research work
will also result in a scientific publication which is very important for his