Move that Bus! HALI PREDICT kicks off in Tanzania

A little while back we channeled “Extreme Makeover – Home Edition” while featuring the improvements made to the HALI lab at Sokoine University’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Public Health.  So why change now?  It’s time to “Move that Bus!!!”

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Photos by Brett Smith

The new lab will be used as a center for wildlife health and diagnostics, the first of its kind in Tanzania. Formerly two shipping containers stacked upright, we have to admit it’s now an architectural masterpiece rivaling even the Pantheon.

Brett Smith, lab manager and lead technician at the UC Davis Marine Ecosystem Health Diagnostic and Surveillance Laboratory, and part of the HALI PREDICT team in Tanzania was at the lab last week to help install equipment and supervise training of our technicians Ruth and Kitime.  Thanks to Brett, HALI’s secret weapon in discovering and characterizing new viruses in Tanzanian wildlife, our team is now working on RNA and DNA extractions, making complementary DNA (cDNA – DNA synthesized from a messenger RNA), and working towards running their first pathogen tests for arenaviruses, a family of viruses associated with rodent-transmitted diseases in humans, like Lassa Fever.

But to run a laboratory and discover new viruses, first you need samples.  So last Wednesday evening I sent a text to HALI Coordinator Harrison Sadiki and asked him what was happening with our field team.  Were we ready to go out to the Ruaha villages and trap rodents around homes, food storage areas, and other high-risk interfaces for rodent-transmitted diseases?  Harrison, god love him, was already in the villages with a crack team of veterinarians and field assistants (Muhiddin, Erasto, Amani, Goodluck, and Liz), and had this to say:

“Hello David, we are doing good here, today we got 21 [rodents] at the peridomestic interface (around people’s homes), and for crop-raiding (another interface around people’s farms) we got 23. Our plan for tomorrow is to keep trapping at the peridomestic interface and around bomas (livestock pens used by pastoralist villagers like the Maasai). Will update you more then, Asante.”

No, Asante sana (thank you), Harrison and Brett.  HALI PREDICT is now in full swing.

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