Kenyan PhD Student Presents at CHS SymposiumGeneral

Ms Isabella Moraa.Ms Isabella Moraa.

A Kenyan study presented at the UKZN’s College of Health Sciences Research Symposium indicated a greater risk of malaria and rift valley fever (RVF) outbreaks in the low lying regions of Baringo County in Kenya. 

The study titled: “Distribution and Variability of Malaria and RVF Vector Species in Baringo County, Kenya”, investigated the altitudinal distribution and variability of RVF and malaria mosquito vectors in Baringo County. 

The research was done by Ms Isabella Moraa, a University of Nairobi PhD student, who conducted a longitudinal entomological survey to collect and identify mosquito vectors of malaria and RVF from houses made of different wall and roof materials. 

The longitudinal study also surveyed the larval habitats to determine preference by different mosquito species, ‘House type influence on indoor resting mosquitoes and their abundance were also assessed.’ The study monitored presence, diversity and seasonal population dynamics of vector mosquitoes. 

‘Despite the fact that Rift Valley Fever outbreaks are sporadic, vectors responsible for RVF virus transmission are present in the area. Malaria vectors were collected at an altitude of up to 2,250m and this was also contrary to the general assumption that they are not found in the highlands,’ said Moraa.  

Due to differential abundances of mosquitoes in the four altitudinal zones, her study suggested that: ‘people living at lowlands and riverine areas need to be given priority in malaria control strategies targeting the vectors and these should include outdoor disease-transmitting mosquitoes as well’.

The ongoing surveillance study is yet to test malaria vectors for presence of plasmodium parasites.

Moraa is enrolled at the School of Biological Sciences and is currently doing her project laboratory work at the Institute of Tropical and Infectious Diseases (UNITID), College of Health Sciences, University of Nairobi in Kenya.  

She was born in a rural village where her community believed science was for boys. ‘I was the first girl to pass with very high grades at primary school and when it was time to choose subjects  in high school I was advised to take social sciences which were considered easy for girls,’ she said. She insisted on three science subjects; Physics, Chemistry and Biology, and specialised in Biological Sciences at university.  

‘I am passionate about science,’ said the mother-of-three. ‘I am persistent in what I want and believe if others have done it before, I can also do it so I rarely get discouraged.’

Nombuso Dlamini