Jambo (hi) from Tanzania!
We are now into our second week of the trip and the blood fluke parasite collection is going well. A few logistical hiccups but nothing we can’t handle (so far).
Last week we went to a few schools to collect schistosomes from infected children. Just to recap why and what we are collecting from schools, here is the life cycle with the stages we are collecting on this trip:
The life cycle of blood flukes, Schistosoma, involving a vertebrate (e.g. human) host and an aquatic snail host. Transmission is through contact of infested freshwater. The yellow circles are the stages and specimens we collect when doing fieldwork.
So we have the delightful job of collecting the larval stage, called miracidia, that hatch out from eggs. How do we do this? We go into a school, collect stool samples from infected children and filter out the eggs. We then put them in some water in sunlight and wait for them to hatch. I will explain this in more detail in a subsequent post on lab work. For now let's stick to the first stage: visiting schools.
We visit state primary schools in the Mwanza region of Lake Victoria. To get to these schools we sometimes have to drive for hours through dirt tracks. All sorts of obstacles occur but the most common one is this: cattle!
On our way to a school, a herd of cattle, goats and sheep block our path.
When we arrive we visit the head teacher and get a proper greeting from the school. The teacher then calls out our selected students - the ones we know are infected from a previous survey, more on this later.
Children were practicing singing, dancing and music on the day we arrived. Credit: Fiona Allan.
Up close and personal, the kids stare at us. Eventually we do get them to smile. Credit: Fiona Allan.
We’re a small team: two scientists from the Museum (Fiona and myself) and 3 research technicians from the National Institute for Medical Research in Mwanza - Mr John, Mr Nagai and Mr James. As well as our trusted driver – Mr Lenard.
The team, Mr John, Mr Nagai and me. Getting our gloves on and our kit ready. Credit: Fiona Allan.
My colleague Fiona Allan, a brilliant schistosome expert and our trip’s photographer.
Me holding a football I am about to present to the headteacher as a present. Credit: Fiona Allan.
Mr James is teaching the children how to give us a stool samples and most importantly to wash their hands afterwards! Good hygiene practice!
We give the kids a container to put a stool sample, and some toilet paper. They run off to the latrines and come back with a full container. How they are able to poop on demand always amazes me. We label the containers with unique identification numbers for each child. And then go back in the lab to process the samples. All the children in the school receive treatment a couple of weeks later. We always treat any infected child!
Mr Nagai and Mr John handing out toilet paper to the kids. Credit: Fiona Allan.
The children all grab for a container for their stool sample.
School latrines. Credit: Fiona Allan.
Mr James supervises the hand washing.
We were very happy to see this in some of the schools: a warning about schistosomiasis, called Kichocho in Kiswahili, and an explanation about the life cycle. Credit: Fiona Allan.
Some shots from the school. A little girl with a necklace of bottle tops, this actually serves as a abacus in the schools. Credit: Fiona Allan.
Local abacus, device for learning arithmetic. Credit: Fiona Allan.
Kids playing in front of a typical Mwanza rock.
This time I came with some gifts for the schools. Back in the UK I decided to get a football for each school. The footballs they use are often just rags and plastic wrapped into a tight ball and tied together, or completely deflated punctured balls. So I went shopping at Altimus. The staff and manager were curious about why I wanted 16 footballs. When I explained they very kindly gave me a generous discount. So this is a thank you to Altimus!
Kids playing football with their old cloth ball.
The new football next to the old football. You can see why the teachers and kids are delighted with the gift. Thank you Altimus.
Girls playing basketball with the new ball from Altimus.
Time to say Asante (thank you) and Kwaheri (good bye).
That's it for today. Next post - what do we do with poo and how to go parasite fishing with a microscope.
Asante sana (thank you very much in Swahili).