Open access and the role of the librarian

University of Nairobi by Kenyaverification

The University of Nairobi is the oldest university in Kenya and is a keen supporter of open access. Alongside its open access policy it is a BioMed Central Foundation Member and operates an institutional repository. We talked to Agatha N. Kabugu, Deputy Director, and Milkah Gikunju, Repository Administrator of the University of Nairobi Library about the role of the librarian in the 21st century, research at the University of Nairobi and open access.

How do you feel the role of librarian is changing?

The librarian’s role has changed from being a passive purveyor of information to an active participant in the research and scholarly communication cycle. The digital era has brought with it new challenges …

Read more

Quality of anti-malarials is on the radar

Quality vs. Fraud

New open access database puts quality of anti-malarials on the map

Everyone has the right to safe, affordable, effective, and quality medicines. However, many are being denied this right. Over the last decade there has been a renewed focus on the importance of drug quality. Government bodies have been found guilty of slacking in their obligations to human rights policy.

Quality control has been slipping off the agenda. Nearly a third of antimalarial medicines have failed quality tests due to poor packaging and incorrect levels of the active ingredients. A review of drug analyses, published in Malaria Journal, concludes that the distribution of falsified and substandard medicines threatens lives, putting patients’ health at risk and increasing the likelihood …

Read more

Malaria or anemia? The challenge of diagnosis


A mother cradles her child. Her son has developed a fever. His blanket is damp from heavy sweating. He lets out a piercing scream, the headaches have started again. She strokes his forehead and rocks him gently. “He’s been sick?” the doctor asks. The mother nods. All the symptoms point to malaria. A simple test could confirm the doctor’s prognosis. However, the clinic’s resources are limited, no microscope and no diagnostic tests. He has to act on observations alone and writes out a prescription for anti-malarial drugs.

Although hypothetical, this is a common scenario in Sub-Saharan Africa, where poor resources and inadequate laboratories are detrimental to public health. There are two commonly used methods for malaria diagnosis: laboratory diagnostic methods …

Read more

Why I study malaria: Dr Francis Ndungu on research, working in Kenya and open access

Francis Ndungu

To mark World Malaria Day we spoke with Dr Francis Ndungu about his research into malaria immunity. Dr Ndungu completed his PhD at the National Institute for Medical Research before returning to Kenya where he is currently a Senior Research Scientist at the KEMRI/Wellcome Trust Research Programme.

Why did you choose to study malaria?

My interest in how humans develop immunity to malaria started during my undergraduate studies at Kenyatta University, Nairobi. We visited the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme (KWTRP) in Kilifi for an academic field trip and whilst there, the Director of KWTRP, Prof Kevin Marsh, who went on to become my mentor, gave us a lecture on ‘the immunology of malaria’.

It became …

Read more

Reducing ignorance about causes of death: can we, and why should we?

Professor Alan Lopez

This is a guest post by Professor Alan Lopez, Director of the Global Burden of Disease Group at the University of Melbourne. He takes a look at why we need to know more about causes of death in populations, and how verbal autopsy provides a viable solution.

We need to know more about causes of death

Each year, over 50 million people die worldwide, many of them prematurely, but for only about one-third of them  do we know with some confidence what they died of. In some regions of the world this fraction is much higher at  90% or more; in others, like sub-Saharan Africa, it is less than 10% Yet politicians, policy makers and public health professionals are expected to …

Read more

Verbal autopsy: To be counted is to become visible

PB lowres


This is a guest blog by Peter Byass, Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Verbal Autopsy at Umeå University, Sweden. Peter has a regular global health blog and is on Twitter, @UCGHR.


“Nothing is certain except death and taxes” – Benjamin Franklin, 1789

Unfortunately, Franklin was correct in excluding cause of death from the realm of certainty. Whatever method is used to determine the cause of a particular death, there is some degree of uncertainty. Even if a body is put in front of several pathologists, there can well be multiple opinions about cause of death. But for more than half of the world’s deaths today, no expert opinion is even sought or recorded around cause of …

Read more

More countries need to count their dead

Recording information

This is a guest post by Professor Prabhat Jha and Lukasz Aleksandrowicz of Centre for Global Health Research.

Reliable cause of death (COD) statistics have transformed public health in the last century. These basic data have uncovered links between diseases and risk factors (such as smoking), and are essential to smart allocations of spending and planning of health programs. Whereas high-income countries have near universal robust death certification and medically-certified COD, these systems are uncommon in low and middle-income income countries.

Most deaths worldwide occur outside of the medical system, and consequently, are invisible in vital statistics. As we point out in this series, global indirect estimates of the causes of death have to rely on roughly 850 guesses for one actual …

Read more

What is verbal autopsy?

Verbal autopsy

This post is the first of  a series about verbal autopsy, the subject of a selection of articles just published in BMC Medicine’s Medicine for Global Health collection.

Determining causes of death is vitally important to public health. It helps to determine what health problems are afflicting a population, which in turn affects policies and strategies to improve health and reduce the number of deaths from certain causes.

One of the first examples we have of a research method to determine causes of death in a population is from 17th Century London, where ‘death searchers’ recorded deaths in the population by weekly household visits, mainly to estimate mortality from the plague.

These days, in developed countries, the process has become …

Read more

Helping the 15 million babies born too soon every year

A small baby held on one arm

Posted on behalf of Natasha Salaria

This Sunday is World Prematurity Day 2013, a global effort to raise awareness about premature birth and its prevention.

Published last year, Born Too Soon is a global action report which involved collaboration from more than 50 organisations and provides the first-ever national, regional and global estimates of preterm birth. The major findings of the report have now been expanded upon in six new review papers, which are published today in a supplement for the journal Reproductive Health. The articles have been jointly funded by the charities Save the Children and March of Dimes and are published in collaboration with the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health and …

Read more

RTS,S; the world’s first malaria vaccine?


According to the World Health Organisation, each year malaria causes an estimated 660,000 deaths worldwide, mostly in Africa, where one child dies of malaria each minute. At present, there is no available vaccine, only preventative measures such as mosquito nets and insecticides which have limited use. In a considerable step forward towards the fight against malaria, British drug firm GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) made headline news earlier this month with the announcement that they are seeking regulatory approval for the world’s first malaria vaccine; RTS,S. Whilst there are some other malaria vaccines in development, RTS,S is the most advanced vaccine targeting Plasmodium falciparum, the most deadly malaria parasite. Understandably, this news generated substantial excitement worldwide, however critics have raised concerns about the efficacy of …

Read more