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Mobile malaria project team begin their journey

The 2018 Royal Geographical Society Land Rover Bursary recipients have begun their eight week journey.

The Mobile Malaria Project team, led by Dr George Busby from Oxford University, will travel over 6,300km across Namibia, Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya to investigate the challenges facing those on the front line of malaria control in Africa – where 90 per cent of the world’s cases occur.

Driving a specially-equipped Land Rover Discovery, the team will research the potential of portable DNA sequencing technology. Their bespoke vehicle is equipped with a mobile genetic sequencing laboratory and extensive modifications. These modifications will allow the team to trial portable DNA sequencing technology, in collaboration with African research centres, to better understand how the technology can be used in different locations. This will provide important information about malaria parasite and mosquito populations, including drug and insecticide resistance.

Dr George Busby, Mobile Malaria Project expedition leader, said: “Although global malaria rates have halved over the past 20 years, progress more recently has stalled. By working with colleagues in Namibia, Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya, our journey will help us to understand the challenges facing malaria researchers in Africa in 2019. The loan of the Discovery not only gives us the capability we need to visit locations we might not have been able to reach otherwise, it gives us the space and versatility to transport the equipment we need. This will allow us to gain a better understanding of how this technology could be used to answer locally relevant questions about malaria parasites and the mosquitoes that transmit them.”

The Mobile Malaria Project will be sharing their progress and stories through a variety of channels including podcasts, school visits, academic papers and social media.

The Land Rover Bursary has been run by the Royal Geographical Society on behalf of Jaguar Land Rover since 2007 and offers £30,000 and the use of a vehicle to make a challenging journey that promotes a wider understanding or enjoyment of geography.

Watch the video below to see the team have a walk around their specially-equipped Land Rover Discovery.