Menace mosquitoes

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Menace mosquitoes

At times the roles of teacher and student shift. That was the case for Dr. George Corliss after the emeritus professor of electrical and computer engineering in the Opus College of Engineering encouraged Tanzanian student Samson Kiware, Grad ’14, to pursue doctoral studies at Marquette.

Kiware’s scholarly focus was a little outside the box for this college — and for his Ph.D. adviser. Kiware was searching for ways to stop malaria, a disease that kills 430,000 people annually, most of them children in sub-Saharan Africa.

Corliss helped Kiware design a degree program in computational sciences to pursue the research, and, in that process, malaria acquired a new adversary.

Corliss traveled to Tanzania with Kiware in 2013 to learn some of the issues firsthand. He recently returned from his fourth trip. This time he accompanied another Tanzanian student, Masabho (Peter) Milali, who is following a research inquiry to identify a low-cost way to determine the age of mosquitoes. The malaria parasite takes six to seven days to mature, so mosquitoes that are 10 days old or younger can’t transmit the disease. Knowing the age of mosquitoes in a region would help NGOs identify where to focus eradication efforts.

On each trip Corliss reunites with Kiware and Paul Kaefer, Grad ’15, who work at the Ifakara Health Institute in rural Tanzania, one of the world’s leading NGOs in malaria research. Corliss conducts workshops in mathematical modeling, statistical analysis and English writing for scientists at work identifying strategies and tools to eliminate malaria.

Research making inroads, Corliss says, includes exploring techniques to have female mosquitoes carry anti-larvae insecticide to breeding habitats, building large outdoor traps with solar-powered zappers to kill the insects and designing “repellent-impregnated” shoes that reduce lower-leg bites by two-thirds.

“A lot of progress has been made on the research front,” Corliss says, “but now the end game is eliminating it on the ground.” — JMM

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