PRESIDENT Jakaya Kikwete has commended scientists at the Ifakara Health Institute (IHI) for impressive research findings, that include the use of sisal sacking materials to protect outdoor mosquito bites.
During a guided tour of IHI's Bagamoyo Clinical Trial Facility in Coast Region on Wednesday evening, President Kikwete was also informed about the significance of the centre, where the first trial in Africa of the sporozoite malaria vaccine (PfSPZ) will shortly be conducted.
Addressing the IHI community and other invited guests, Mr Kikwete also pledged financial support for the institute and other research establishments so they can collectively provide local solutions to local health challenges. "I was in Boston last year and they told me that the last malaria patient was diagnosed in 1956.
With your innovative studies, why can't we see the last malaria patient in Tanzania in 2016... " the president posed a challenge. He added; "Research institutions should identify one or two research programmes that the government can support directly.
Control of outdoor mosquito bites is quite impressive," President Kikwete said. Earlier in the day, the president laid a foundation stone for a factory designed to produce insecticides (also for killing mosquitoes) in Kibaha, Coast Region.
"But here (IHI) you have gone a step farther. You are now searching for ways to prevent mosquitoes from biting people outdoors," he said.
Speaking earlier, IHI Chief Executive Director, Dr Salim Abdulla, expressed concern over dependence on competitive grants for institutional and research activities as the approach was not sufficient. He requested the government for more support.
During the tour of the centre, Dr Nico Govella, who is one of the research scientists at the Bagamoyo facility, informed the president that initial studies had proved the efficacy of the sisal strips against outdoor biting Anopheles arabiensis mosquitoes.
He said long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) and indoor residual spraying (IRS) had been successful in reducing malaria vectors which predominantly feed upon humans indoors, but the use of sisal strips went a step farther in the fight against malaria.
"IHI saw the need for critical additional tools that would protect people whilst outdoors. The natural sisal fibres are readily available and affordable in Tanzania," explained Dr Govella.
He said sisal strips are used to make a flower pot or any other souvenir and once treated with a spatial repellent known as transfluthrin and placed in a living room or outdoors, those sitting within a radius of two metres would be 100 per cent safe from mosquito bites.
Asked about the persistence of the treated sisal efficacy, Dr Govella said it would last for 51 weeks (the whole year) before being replaced.
The president was quite impressed by the new innovative approach that would complement the existing treated nets and indoor spraying. Reliable sources maintained that the government sets aside 30bn/- for research every year.