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Abstract

Malaria has consistently been a challenging disease for world health, especially in Africa, with more than half million deaths each year. The world effort to fight against this pandemic includes, amongst others, the development of diagnostic tools for earlier disease detection, new drug-targeting strategies, and technology for tracking and controlling mosquitoes responsible for malaria. In collaboration with researchers from University of Lund and African scientists, supported by ISP (International Science Program) Uppsala University, we have established a network dedicated to this effort composed of eight African countries (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Togo, Senegal), one Asian country (Sri Lanka) and one European scientific partner (Lund University). The African Spectral Imaging Network (AFSIN) is in charge of organizing a workshop once a year and training young scientists and engineers in the areas of bio-photonics and Optical Spectroscopy applied to biomedical, agricultural and environmental problems related to malaria. Our students move around the network nodes and participate in joint projects. This has helped more than 50 students within the network to graduate, has helped in developing more than 3 novel optical technology platforms in each country, and has addressed some of the developing issues in our countries regarding medicine, agriculture and environment.

In this talk we introduce the overall goals and structure of the AFSIN network and present results of ongoing technology projects. Our instrument development includes multi-spectral imaging microscopes for rapid identification and characterization infections in humans and laser-based remote sensing technology for characterizing parasite-infected mosquitos in the environment. Multi-spectral microscopy has been developed as an alternative to standard clinical malaria diagnostic methods. An image processing technique, combined with spectral imaging, has been proposed for automatic diagnosis. The capability of this technology to follow the activity of drug therapies has also been demonstrated. Remote sensing technologies such as LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) transmit a laser beam into the atmosphere and measure the backscattered laser light from insects. This allows assessment of fast oscillatory insect wing-beats and harmonics over a distance range of kilometers. LIDAR methods are intended to identify mosquito species and survey the distribution of insects in the field.

About the Speakers

Jeremie T. Zoueu is a Professor of Photonics at the National Polytechnic Institute in Yamoussoukro (Ivory Coast) and currently is working as a Research Professor at the School of Engineering of the Virginia Commonwealth University for his sabbatical year. He holds a PhD in Physics, from Pierre & Marie Curie University (Paris-6, France) in 1996, in the field of Lasers and Photonic Materials. He graduated from Galilee Institute of Paris in 1992, and earned a Master's degree in Laser Engineering. Jeremie spent time in Paris at the Laboratory of Optics, before returning to Ivory Coast, where he teaches optics and leads the Photonics research program. Jeremie is also the coordinator of the African Spectral Imaging Network (AFSIN). After studying the optical nonlinear properties of organic material and magneto-optical properties of metallic clusters, he moved to the area of imaging spectroscopy and photonics applied to biomedical, agricultural and environmental problems facing developing nations. He is currently working on developing an optical tool for a rapid, sensitive and accurate diagnosis of malaria, malarial drug-target interactions, and malaria mosquito forecasting devices based on remote sensing spectroscopy in collaboration with colleagues from Lund University in Sweden.

Aboma Merdasa is a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Chemical Physics at Lund University (Sweden) where is employing optical super-resolution microscopy to characterize organic solar cell materials. He holds a M.Sc. in Photonics from Lund University, Sweden and a B.A. in Physics from Gustavus Adolphus College, MN, USA. He has long-standing collaboration with the Applied Spectroscopy group of the Atomic Physics Division at Lund University where he has helped develop economically realistic optical instruments with the primary objective of detecting malaria, although other applications within environmental and agricultural fields have been demonstrated. In 2010 he helped establish the African Spectral Imaging Network (AFSIN) which is not only dedicated to educating students in spectroscopy but also putting spectroscopic methods into practice to solve relevant problem in the developing world. Today, AFSIN has more than 50 members (mainly students) from 8 countries in Africa who meet on a yearly basis to be trained to operate newly developed instruments and share recent scientific discoveries. Aboma has been an integral part in these workshops as an organizer, instructor and instrument developer.