Research underway to treat cerebral malaria with indigenous plants

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A doctoral project that aims to combat some of the worst effects of malaria in Africa has earned Nigerian researcher Folashade Ogunrinade valuable funding from a global foundation.

Determined to move on to doctoral research, she read academic articles describing the work of her fellow Nigerian, Dr. Olumayokun Olajide, who is based at the University of Huddersfield, investigating the potential of plant compounds in the fight against neuroinflammation.

After she was accepted as a Huddersfield PhD student, supervised by Dr. Olajide, Folashade then applied to the Schlumberger Foundation, a non-profit organisation that focuses on science education. It operates a programme named Faculty for the Future that offers fellowships to support women scientists and engineers from Schlumberger the developing world so that they can pursue postgraduate studies at leading universities worldwide.

Foleshade Ogunrinade and Olumayokun Olijade

Foleshade Ogunrinade and Olumayokun Olijade

The main objective of Folashade’s research is to identify and isolate compounds in some common African plants so that they can be used for the treatment of cerebral malaria, which affects some 575,000 people annually – children in sub-Saharan Africa being most at risk.

‘Other researchers have been looking at the actual parasite that causes malaria,’ said Dr Olajide. ‘But we are looking specifically at how the parasite causes inflammation in the brain.’

The plants from which compounds are to be isolated are commonly found in Africa and could therefore be the basis for an accessible and economic treatment for cerebral malaria.

For the 2015-2016 academic year, Schlumberger has awarded new fellowships to 155 women – Folashade being one of them. Her tuition costs and living expenses are met by the award, which is renewed annually during her research, when she provides evidence of her academic progress.

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