CoSMIC | COVID-19 Study using Minimally invasive autopsy for Interrogation of Cellular response
Funder: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Dates: 04/08/20 - 03/08/21
We will perform MITS in Malawian patients with fatal COVID-19, as well as controls with fatal non-COVID lower respiratory infection and fatal non-lung related causes of death. We will systematically assess histopathological changes and viral load in lung and other tissues. In lung tissue we will perform flow cytometry, high resolution imaging and single-cell RNA sequencing to assess immune cell composition and cellular phenotypic and transcriptomic states in the lung in COVID-19 in comparison with controls. Bioinformatic analyses of these data aim to assess dominant cellular pathways associated with severe COVID-19 lung parenchymal disease with the goal of identifying potential therapeutic targets. In addition, biomarkers from easily accessible samples (i.e. blood and nasal swabs) will be correlated to markers of immune response in the lung. Potential challenges, as with all MITS work, include family/community acceptability and regulatory approval, which we will aim to address in part through sensitisation activities. Small sample size may also limit the ability to distinguish processes in COVID-19 from control deaths, though this would in itself be of interest.
In recruitment phase of study.
COVID-HCWEXPO - Characterising COVID-19 occupational exposure among healthcare workers through the validation of point-of-care diagnostics
Academic lead: Dr Antonia Ho
UofG co-applicants: Dr Kayla Barnes, Dr Chris Moxon, Prof Jon Cooper, Dr Julien Reboud, Dr Andrew Glidle
University of Malawi College of Medicine: Mwapatsa Mipando, Tonney Nyirenda, David Chaima, Jane Mallewa, Chisomo Msefula, Rajab Mkakosya, Pauline Katundu, Isaac Shawa, Khuzwayo Jere
Public Health Institute of Malawi: Watipaso Kasambara
Blantyre District Health Office: Gift Kawalazira
A substantial number of COVID-19 have been reported in healthcare workers (HCWs). HCWs in Malawi are particularly vulnerable, owing to the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and infection prevention and control measures in healthcare facilities. Protection of HCWs is a key priority.
Similar to many low-and-middle-income countries (LMICs), Malawi has limited capacity and capability to perform reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), the gold standard test to diagnose COVID-19 infection, or antibody tests to understand population exposure to COVID-19. As per WHO, testing and tracing are key to controlling the outbreak and mitigating COVID-19-associated morbidity and mortality. POC tests may be the solution, but many available POC antibody tests for COVID-19 suffer from low sensitivity and specificity. To inform public health guidance in Malawi and other LMICs, we propose to both evaluate existing POC diagnostics against RT-PCR and antibody-based tests, and develop a new RNA-based test, while evaluating HCW exposure to COVID-19 in parallel.
This project aims to address the following research questions:
- Do HCWs have greater exposure to SARS-CoV-2 than community members?
- What are the most sensitive and specific POC antibody tests available in Malawi?
- Can we develop and implement low-cost rapid POC LAMP assays for community and HCW testing in Malawi (that can apply to other LMICs)?
We will recruit a prospective cohort of HCWs (n=150) focusing on 1) district health officers (DHO) performing contact tracing of confirmed cases; 2) clinical staff caring for patients with acute respiratory infection at Queen Elizabeth Central hospital (QECH); and 3) HCWs at 3 urban health centres. We also recruited community members, frequency-matched for age and household size. The cohort will be followed up at 4 and 8 weeks.
Figure 1 COVID-HCWEXPO participant receiving a nasopharyngeal swab from the study team.
Nasopharyngeal samples will be screened for SARS-CoV-2 by RT-PCR and immune response evaluated (IgM/IgG) using in-house and commercial SARS-CoV-2 enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). All positive samples by RT-PCR or ELISA, and a subset of negatives will be screened on all commercially available POC tests in Malawi (those purchasable from local pharmacies, and POCs donated to Malawi Ministry of Health). We will also validate a POC test using Reverse-Transcriptase Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification (RT-LAMP) developed at UoG in partnership with Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU), Mologic Ltd, UK Aid, Gates and FIND.
Participant recruitment, four- and eight-week follow-up are completed. PCR results revealed a high prevalence of predominantly asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection in HCWs and community members, the results have been shared with the Ministry of Health of Malawi. ELISA results and clinical validation of the RT-LAMP assay are in progress.
Figure 2. SARS-CoV-2 PCR positivity at enrolment, week 4 and week 8 follow-up, June – August 2020.
Exploring the contexts of early childhood education for children with disabilities in Chiradzulu “Tiphunzile”- “Let us learn”
Principal Investigator (UK)
Dr Paul Lynch is a Senior Lecturer in early childhood development and inclusive education in the School of Education, University of Glasgow.
Co-Principal investigator (Malawi)
Dr. Emmie Mbale (MBBS,MSc,FCPeds), Consultant Paediatrics, College of Medicine, University of Malawi.
Key Malawi Partners/ co-investigators/ Collaborators (with contact details):
Dr Khama Chibwana (co-investigator), Lecturer in Early Childhood Development and Education and Head of Human Ecology Development and Education, Chancellor College, University of Malawi.
Mrs Jenipher Mbukwa Ngwira (co-investigator). Head of Special Needs Department, Chancellor College.
Dr Anita Soni is an early childhood and education psychologist and tutors on the educational psychology doctorate programme in the Department of Disability, Inclusion, Special Needs (DISN), University of Birmingham
Research Fellow (UK)
Dr Marisol Reyes Soto is a Research Fellow in the Department of Disability, Inclusion and Special Needs, University of Birmingham.
Funder: British Academy
Start Date: November 2019
End Date: July 2022
This study is addressing the issue of access to early childhood education (ECE) for children with disabilities in Malawi. The main aim is to provide evidence of how children with disabilities (aged 3-7 years) are being supported in their transition to pre-primary and primary education in a rural district in Southern Malawi. Using qualitative methods (case studies), we will show the different pathways that children with disabilities take into pre and formal schooling (e.g. both within mainstream and special schools). Drawing on the bio-ecological systems theory and a trans-disciplinary model of community based rehabilitation (CBR), we will document how children’s environments are shaping the way, diagnosis, care and learning are organised for children with disabilities. We will also identify the different influences that affect children’s learning opportunities within different learning settings including child-based community centres (CBCCs) and primary schools across the district.
Main research question
What are the factors that influence access of children with disabilities to early education provision in Chiradzulu district?
- To understand what factors influence the participation and inclusion of children with disabilities in early childhood education.
- To investigate the different influences that affect children’s learning opportunities in community based child centres and primary schools.
- To identify examples of good practice that have led to better the access, transition and retention of children with disabilities into CBCC and primary education.
- To determine local trans-disciplinary team systems that can support children’s transition into formal education.
We will produce a compendium of multiple case studies which capture the different influences that enable inclusion and participation as well as that cause risk to these children. These studies will focus on positive educational and health practices for both the children and their families. We will also analyse the key factors that enable the participation and inclusion of these children within these cases to through further indpeth interviews and observations.We will also produce a set of guidelines on how to support the inclusion and participation of children with disabilities which will be helpful for early childhood development (ECD) training programmes at Chancellor College and the Catholic University as well as for Child Health programmes at the College of Medicine.
Placing communities at the heart of humanitarian and environmental drone use: Issues, challenges and opportunities
Academic lead: Prof Deborah Dixon
Start date: January 1, 2019
End date: December 31, 2019
This (Academy of Medical Sciences-funded) project is aimed to acknowledge the diverse existing and emerging drone usages by scientists, the state, NGOs and businesses in Malawi, and assess how communities are, and can be, made, inclusive to these practices through an emphasis on meaningful consent and the ethics of drone-based practices more broadly.
Drones are becoming increasingly used by diverse scientists and businesses working on environmental change and agriculture, as well as NGOs focused on health and education. Drones can carry high resolution cameras and thermal imaging equipment that can sense a range of environmental phenomena, and inform 3-dimensional maps, as well as microphones and devices to host wi-fi (becoming makeshift 3G and 4G cell towers), and intercept communications.They can also be used to transport materials (including medical materials) from one location to another.
Within Malawi, efforts have been made to bring scientists and NGOs together with industry and state departments to develop drone capacity, culminating in the 2017 establishment of a 'Drone Corridor' by UNICEF and the Malawi Government. There remains the key issue, however, of integrating communities into these emerging drone geographies beyond 'sensitising' them to a drone presence, or treating them as passive recipients of humanitarian aid.
- Two Drone Conferences at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) bringing together representatives from the Malawi Defense Force (MDF), Ministry of Defense (MOF), Civil Aviation (AV), the NGO Abundance, LUANAR and Glasgow academics, and residents within Malawi’s ‘Drone Corridor’;
- A survey of and focus groups with Drone Corridor residents in Katema, Mayi Chirwa, Mwase (Linga), Chinkhombwe, Kadyamthupa, Nguwe (GVH), Mtandaza, Mawawa, Yafete, Tsendwe, Masamba and Block 3; a Drone Data Collection and Analysis Workshop for LUANAR students; and interviews with Drone operators.
These are ongoing, and comprise to date a final report for dissemination to state and NGO representatives in Malawi that includes best practice guidance for drone-based humanitarian and environmental research; Data Management cue cards in Chichewa and English for local communities; weather-proof posters for community display; and the facilitation of women in drone-focused governance and research (via an internship, Commonwealth Scholarship application and training).
Compiled by Grace Chilongo and Sebastian Hudson using OpenStreetMap
Drone-flying in Linga Village, September 8th, 2019. Photo by Kenneth Roberts.
Brian Barrett and Kenny Roberts leading the Drone Workshop, September 8th, 2019.
Is malaria infection a risk factor for hypertension in Malawian adults?
Academic lead: Dr Pasquale Maffia
Hypertension is a healthcare priority in Malawi. Recent evidence supports the hypothesis of a link between malaria and hypertension; however, this relationship has not been addressed in a systematic manner to date.
We propose to establish proof-of-concept for future large-cohort-studies investigating relationships between malaria and hypertension development.
Project Start Date: October 1, 2018
Project End Date: June 30, 2019
No outputs to report yet.
Glasgow-Blantyre study course in Tropical Medicine
Academic lead: Prof. Mike Barrett
The Glasgow University study course in tropical medicine, leading to the Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene from the Royal College of Physicians is open to medical doctors in Malawi.
The course is taught online, with a practical week to be held in Blantyre at the College of Medicine.
This year 10 Malawian students attended the course, with funding from GCRF and came to Glasgow in December for the practical week.
Project Start Date: October 1, 2019
Project End Date: April 10, 2020
No outputs to report yet (and very sadly the exam has been postponed due to Covid19)
Does a poor T cell response to rotavirus vaccination account for reduced vaccine efficacy in children in Malawi?
UofG: Dr Megan MacLeod, Joshua Gray
Malawi: Khuzwayo Jere, Kondwani Jambo, Chikondi Malamba
Project start date: Oct 1st 2018
End:March 21st 2019
Rotavirus causes severe intestinal disease that can be fatal. Rotavirus vaccines are highly effective in high-income countries (>90%) compared to low-middle income countries (64%) where the highest disease burden occurs. We will investigate the immunological basis for reduced vaccine efficacy in infants in Malawi generating preliminary date for further funding.
What we did
The aim was to develop a joint project between researchers at the University of Glasgow (UofG) and the University of Malawi (MLW) to examine T cell responses to rotavirus vaccine in children vaccinated in Malawi.
Children in Malawi have a variable response to the vaccine and our long term goal is to understand why vaccine efficacy is less in low-middle income countries as compared to more affluent countries.
We have generated preliminary data for a future application and developed a productive working relationship to ensure that we continue to work together in the future.
New knowledge: contributed to the development of protocols to examine CD4 T cell responses to rotavirus vaccine
Promoting future collaborations: aim is to write a substantial joint grant on memory T cells
Capacity Strengthening: We purchased an electronic cell counter at MLW enabling accurate and safe counting of peripheral blood cells for downstream analysis and benefiting others at MLW in addition to the co-applicants
Education and Youth Enterprise in Malawi
Academic lead: Dr Sabrani Maitra
The Education and Youth Enterprise in Malawi is a Master's Scholarship funded by the Sustainable Futures Africa - Global Challenges Research Council (SFA-GCRF). This funding provided the opportunity for Mr Stewart Paul to continue his educational journey at the University of Glasgow.
Stewart Paul had just finished college when he attended the 2017 SFA symposium in Botswana. Mr Paul’s SFA involvement led to a role in a study conducted by Dr Nader Karimi of the University of Glasgow and the findings from this study forms the basis for a proposal that is being developed to impact positively and provide solutions to the energy crisis Malawi faces.
Following this and via an SFA proposal submitted to Global Challenges Research Council, Mr Paul was admitted to undertake the Master’s Degree in Education at the University of Glasgow. His independent research will explore the implications – for access, inclusion, and attainment – of international educational policy and aid on local and place-based pedagogies.
Read more about his experience in his blog From Lillongwe to Glasgow - Crafting a Career Path
Sustainable Futures in Africa
Academic lead: Dr Mia Perry
Funders: ESRC, SFC GCRF (Internal Competition)
The sustainable futures in Africa (SFA) network is an interdisciplinary collective that brings together researchers, practitioners, and communities of practice that acknowledge the situated and complex nature of sustainability. the network aims to build understanding, research, and practice in socio-ecological sustainability in Africa.
Specifically, the Network includes the participation of researchers from:
- geography and earth sciences, community and adult education, applied social arts, health sciences, and engineering
- third-sector organisations (working with environmental and social sustainability, with arts and cultural practice, and with community engagement in African contexts)
- community stake-holders (living and working in areas of focus)
Participants currently span the Uganda, Botswana, Nigeria, Malawi, and the UK, and the reach of the network continues to expand.
Sustainable Futures in Africa and Community Engagement - A Workshop
Academic lead: Dr Mia Perry
Dates: Aug 2019 to June 2020
Location: Scotland and Malawi
Funding: SFC-GCRF (University of Glasgow internal competition)
This ongoing project is funded by SFC-GCRF (University of Glasgow internal competition) and brings together partners from Scotland and Malawi as well as many other regions through the SFA network.
Community engagement (CE) is a near-ubiquitous theme in international development assistance programmes. Yet, this modern grasp often implies ambiguity within research institutions about what exactly CE in international research means.
This initiative is a bottom-up approach designed to bridge the gap between research teams and communities. Our main activity will be to build capacities through the development and distribution of a resource about community engagement in international – development led contexts for researchers and development workers in LMIC countries, as well as UK partners involved in the research teams.
This will be achieved by co-designing and carrying out a workshop with the Malawian hub of the Sustainable Futures in Africa network and the local communities of rural Malawi.
Partners (Principal Investigator (PI), Co-Investigator (Co-Is), institutions)
- Dr Mia Perry – University of Glasgow (PI)
- Dr Alexandra Ross – University of Glasgow (Co-I)
- Ms Viviana Checchia – Centre for Contemporary Arts (Co-I)
- Prof Jo Sharp – University of St Andrews (Co-I)
- Dr Deepa Pullanikkatil – Abundance (Co-I)
- Dr Boyson H. Z. Moyo – LUANAR (Co-I)
- Ms Helen Todd – ArtGlo (Co-I)
Sustainable Futures in Africa (SFA) Network’s Administrative Support
Academic lead: Dr Brian Barrett
Location: Botswana, Malawi, Nigeria, Scotland and Uganda
Funding: SFC-GCRF (University of Glasgow internal competition)
The Sustainable Futures in Africa (SFA) Network is an interdisciplinary collective that brings together researchers, practitioners and communities of practice that acknowledge the complex nature of sustainability.
The network aims to build understanding, research and practice in socio-ecological sustainability in Africa. With funding from SFC-GCRF (University of Glasgow internal competition), this ongoing project responds to the current needs of the Sustainable Futures in Africa network (including the Malawi hub) through the development and strengthening of hub-led research projects and enabling collaboration between communities, academia, NGO and Governmental organisations.
Research Managers and Administrators Workshop for sub-Saharan Africa
Academic lead: Miss Mary Ryan
School/Research Institute: Research and Innovation Services
Meeting dates: February 25th-27th, 2020
This was a workshop that took place in Cape Town to address critical skills gaps in research management and provided specialized skills development for 81 Research Managers and Administrators from 51 institutions in 12 countries.
Building upon the success of the 2019 meeting, this workshop featured more in-depth coverage of critical topics identified by the participants, introduced new skills and practical exercises, and broadened the diversity of the facilitation team.
Specifically, the workshop delivered the following objectives:
1. Skills development in areas identified by attendees
2. Continuation of the initiative began at the first meeting in developing a continent-wide network of research administrators
3. Continued identification of process improvements that can be made by UK institutions to inform best practice
Feedback from the participants was overwhelmingly positive, with several attendees highlighting that it was the first professional development training they had received, that it would change the way they worked and that they had not previously realized they had so many colleagues across the continent they could contact for advice and support.
You can see more about the meeting by searching the hashtag #ResearchManagers2020 on twitter.
IMPRESS - Integrative Malawi-Glasgow Programme for Research Examining Single Cells
Academic lead: Dr Christopher Moxon
UoG Co-applicants: Matt Marti, Thomas Otto, Kristina Kirchner, Mayetri Gupta, Andy Waters, Dumi Tembo, Pawel Herzyk, Franziska Hentzschel
Malawi Co-Applicants: Benjamin Kumwenda (College of Medicine), Henry Mwandumba (MLW), Kondwani Jambo (MLW), Karl Seydel (BMP)
Single cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) is a cutting-edge approach that is re-defining key areas of biology. Through WCIP purchasing equipment in Malawi and seeded by this funding we will harness Glasgow: Malawi expertise to establish the first scRNA-seq facility in sub-Saharan Africa.
We will initially focus on malaria and HIV to establish a platform that will also be transformative for other infectious and
non-communicable diseases, providing major research and funding opportunities.
We first developed assays and platforms for host-pathogen interactions in mouse models of malaria in Glasgow
(led by Marti and Otto groups, see figure below).
We are currently setting up an identical 10X based platform for library preparation for single cell sequencing and are
applying validated techniques for collecting, storing and processing tissue from minimally invasive postmortems from
fatal malaria cases in Malawi.
We have processed our first two patient samples in Malawi and made sequence ready libraries which will be sequenced
once lockdown is lifted.
Start: September 2019
Finish: June 30th 2020
Cells isolated from spleen (S), bone marrow (BM) and blood (B) of an P. berghei infected mouse and analysed via dual scRNA-seq for both host and parasite transcriptomes.
Clustering of cells reveales distinct host cell populations in spleen and bone marrow, as well as parasites of all stages in all three different organs.
This technology enables us to investigate differences in parasite populations in these three different compartments. Data generated by Franziska Hentzschel (Marti group) and analysed by Hentzschel and by Otto Group, University of Glasgow.
Strengthening capacity at the start of research careers: MSc-level exchange program in parasitology
Academic lead: Dr Katarzyna Modrzynska
The aim of this project was to allow to nine MSc-level students from Malawi and other LMIC African countries to join one of the teams of the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Parasitology in Glasgow for a period of 12 weeks.
Each of the students was hosted by the team of their choice and would either choose among the proposed research projects or develop one in collaboration with a researcher from the UoG and a supervisor in their home country.
Throughout their stay, in addition to working on their projects, the students received training in a variety of research techniques and forged links with both the research community of the University of Glasgow and with each other.
They actively participated in shared departmental events (internal and external seminars, social occasions, journal clubs) and in the activities organised specifically for their cohort (like the tour of UoG and a grant writing workshop).
It was a second edition of the very successful scheme run previously in 2018 which was judged very highly by all participants and their supervisors.
It contributed to empowering the students towards their next career move and forged the links between the participants and UoG researchers which are still maintained, resulting in new collaborations or reinforcing the existing ones. We hope to continue the scheme next year.
Stop and start dates:
01.2020 - 03.2020
Day 1 – Welcome to sunny Glasgow! (yep, January was the best month to arrive)
Hard at work in the lab!
Brainstorming during grant writing workshop (coffee helps!)
Discovering the university....
....And the City of Glasgow!
The effect of English-only instruction on skill formation and labour market readiness of young Malawians
Academic lead: Prof. Melanie Simms
Dates: 1/12/18 – 30/6/2019
Funder: SFC GCRF (Internal Competition)
This is a challenge-led project that gathered and commissioned evidence on the complex interactions of language, schooling, labour market outcomes and economic development.
We focus on the case of Malawi, which is typical for many Commonwealth countries where there is tension between the practicalities of English as a common language, and the cultural and educational benefits of diverse native languages.Importantly, the impact on skill formation and employability of an English-only schooling policy are not clear.
The project has two aims:
1) to promote an informed and effective discussion between academics and stakeholders in Malawi in order to strengthen the evidence base for policy making
2) to identify remaining gaps in the evidence base in order to inform an application for a large collaborative research project. This is an inherently interdisciplinary problem, which straddles linguistics, education, public policy, labour markets and economics.
To gain traction we have assembled an interdisciplinary network of academics in Glasgow, Malawi and South Africa.
Influenza in Malawi: burden, risk factors for severe disease, and institution of national surveillance
Academic lead: Dr Antonia Ho
Start date: 1/10/2019
End date: 30/06/2020
This project enabled a return visit to Malawi to disseminate the findings of the BASH-FLU study, which identified HIV as an important risk factor for symptomatic influenza and severe disease in Malawian adults, and sentinel influenza surveillance in Blantyre.
Dr Ho was also invited by the Malawi Ministry of Health to provide technical support to institute a national influenza surveillance programme.
Key findings were communicated via dissemination meetings to former study participants, Blantyre Community Advisory Group and healthcare staff at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital and Gateway Clinic.
Data were also presented to the Malawi scientific community at the Joint University of Malawi College of Medicine and Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Programme Research Dissemination Meeting in November 2019
Furthermore, Dr Ho met with representatives of the Public Health Institute of Malawi (PHIM) in Lilongwe to present data from the BASH-FLU study and sentinel respiratory viral surveillance in Blantyre, and agreed on an ongoing collaboration between University of Glasgow and PHIM to implement national surveillance in Malawi.
Dr Ho and Sitithana Muyaso (former BASH-FLU study team member) conveying key findings of the BASH-FLU study to former study participants...
Dr Ho meets with representative of the Malawi Ministry of Health and PHIM)...