Opening session at the joint ESCCA-DGfZ meeting in Bremen 2008

HIV/Aids, is there still hope in Africa ?

The opening session of the DGfZ was dedicated to talks and discussions about the three most disastrous diseases in the world: tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/Aids. Two deeply involved scientists agreed to give an overview about the actual problems which are predominant in the developing world, where access to scientific advances and therapies is difficult. Our guests were Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Göhde, Germany and Prof. Dr. Yves Traoré from the Université de Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

Their talks presented a topic already discussed at the ISAC conference in Quebec following the ” one of the most emotive and personally challenging lectures” held by Stephen Lewis. A general question of how improving a technique might improve the ability of fighting infectious diseases in Africa (cytometry for life), lowering the price of the reagents (mAB CD4) being one of the first steps. As always it takes hands and hearts to do it and people that do not “think big” but “think simple”, which is in no way related to “being easy”. Prof. Göhde and Prof. Traore simply went out and started to solve the problems were they are, in Africa.

Recent publications from the World Health Organization presented the following statistics for the three endemic and frightening diseases: There are 60 million infected people with HIV/AIDS, 2 billion infected tuberculosis individuals and more than 300 million person infected with the malaria parasites. Although AIDS is a relatively young disease which was discovered first time in 1981 the two other diseases are long since known and were already described and treated by Robert Koch and Luis Pasteur around 100 years ago. However, as it turns out over the years the virus and the microorganisms had special defence mechanisms and virulence strategies which are not known from other human pathogens. This made research and treatment of infected people difficult and the question remains:

Prof. Göhde presented ‘Adapted technologies and new concepts for diagnosis of three major diseases in Africa: Malaria, Tuberculosis and HIV-AIDS’. Since 2000 he is engaged in the development of robust and affordable Flow Cytometry techniques for developing countries and resource-poor settings which resulted in the demonstration of the first mobile HIV/Aids laboratory at the world AIDS Conference in Barcelona 2002. Additionally, he is involved in the development of affordable diagnostic solutions for TB and Malaria testing.

Prof. Traoré summarized this to the point: ‘HIV/AIDS, MALARIA AND TB: Three killer diseases in Africa; is there any hope for african countries? As a lecturer for Immunology and Consultant for West African Health Organization (WAHO) he has deep insight into the actual situation in Africa. The fight against the diseases needs the experience of the scientists, the close collaboration of cross-field research and it requires political will, a long-term supply of considerable financial resources and a more human dedication from all sectors of society. The two scientists gave us access to an appalling truth. We are thankful for that.

The abstracts of the DGfZ/ESCCA joint meeting have been published in Cytometry Part B (Oct. issue).
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Susann Müller and Elmar Endl, October 2008