Current Africa News and Events

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Cosmic beasts and where to find them
Two giant radio galaxies have been discovered with South Africa's powerful MeerKAT telescope. These galaxies are thought to be amongst the largest single objects in the Universe. The discovery has been published today in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. (2021-01-18)

Intertropical Convergence Zone limits climate predictions in the tropical Atlantic
The strongest climate fluctuation on time scales of a few years is the so-called El Niño phenomenon, which originates in the Pacific. A similar circulation pattern exists in the Atlantic, which scientists under the leadership of GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel have studied in more detail. Their results, now published in the international journal Nature Communications, contribute to a better understanding of this climate fluctuation and pose a challenge for prediction models. (2021-01-15)

First human culture lasted 20,000 years longer than thought
Homo sapiens emerged in Africa around 300 thousand years ago, where their fossils are found with the earliest cultural and technological expressions of our species. This repertoire, commonly referred to as the ''Middle Stone Age'', remained widely in use across much of Africa until around 60-30 thousand years ago. New research in Senegal shows this 'first human culture' persisted until 11 thousand years ago - 20 thousand years longer than previously thought. (2021-01-11)

Alert system shows potential for reducing deforestation, mitigating climate change
Forest loss declined 18% in African nations where a new satellite-based program provides free alerts when it detects deforestation activities. (2021-01-04)

COVID-19's impact on cancer prevention and control in Africa
When the COVID-19 pandemic reached Africa, the continent was already struggling to deal with another public health crisis - a growing cancer epidemic characterized by more than one million new cancer cases and nearly 700,000 deaths per year. (2020-12-31)

Gates Foundation helps UC study sexual health of South African youth
An important new finding by University of Cincinnati researchers could help slow the transmission of HIV/AIDS and reduce pregnancies among adolescent girls in rural South Africa. (2020-12-22)

Evolution of a killer: How African Salmonella made the leap from gut to bloodstream
University of Liverpool scientists have exploited the combined power of genomics and epidemiology to understand how a type of Salmonella bacteria evolved to kill hundreds of thousands of immunocompromised people in Africa. (2020-12-21)

Sixfold increase in risk
A research team at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has quantified the effects of an infection with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) on the development of cervical cancer. Their results show that the risk of developing cervical cancer is six times higher in women who are infected with HIV. Southern and Eastern Africa are particularly affected. (2020-12-21)

Researchers propose process to detect and contain emerging diseases
University of Arkansas biologist Kristian Forbes is part of a global team of researchers developing a strategy to detect and intercept diseases emerging from wildlife in Africa that could eventually infect humans. (2020-12-18)

Shipwrecked ivory a treasure trove for understanding elephants and 16th century trading
An international collaboration of researchers in Namibia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States reporting in the journal Current Biology on December 17 have found that the cargo of a 16th century shipwreck known as the Bom Jesu included more than 100 elephant tusks, which paleogenomic and isotopic analyses trace to many distinct herds that once roamed West Africa. (2020-12-17)

Study tracks elephant tusks from 16th century shipwreck
In 1533, the Bom Jesus - a Portuguese trading vessel carrying 40 tons of cargo including gold, silver, copper and more than 100 elephant tusks - sank off the coast of Africa near present-day Namibia. The wreck was found in 2008, and scientists say they now have determined the source of much of the ivory recovered from the ship. (2020-12-17)

Change in global precipitation patterns as a result of climate change
The Earth's climate system is largely determined by the differences in temperature between the tropics and the poles. Global warming is likely to cause global atmospheric circulation to change and progressively revert to a situation similar to that of 5,000 to 10,000 years ago. This is the conclusion of a study published in Nature Communications. (2020-12-17)

A no-meat diet everywhere will not solve the climate crisis
Scientists argue Authors further argue that a singular focus on negative livestock-related environmental impacts ignores the critical but more positive role livestock play in ecosystem services, income and asset provision or insurance in low- and middle-income countries. It also overlooks more systemic questions about how animals are raised. (2020-12-16)

First peer-reviewed results of phase 3 human trials of Oxford vaccine show efficacy
Wits University scientists were amongst the co-authors who published the first peer-reviewed results of phase 3 human trials of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, in prestigious scientific journal The Lancet, on 8 December. Wits leads the SA leg of the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine trials. (2020-12-09)

Why do elephants and tigers still roam in India? Study offers clues
A study documenting four extinctions of large mammals on the Indian Subcontinent sheds light on why elephants, tigers, and rhinos still roam there. (2020-12-08)

Miniature guttural toads on Mauritius and Réunion stun researchers
Researchers from the DSI/NRF Center for Invasion Biology at Stellenbosch University in South Africa have found that, scarcely a hundred years after Guttural Toads were introduced to the islands of Mauritius and Réunion, their overall body size has been reduced by up to a third compared to their counterparts in South Africa. (2020-12-08)

The impact of Neandertal DNA on human health
A researcher at the University of Tartu described new associations between Neandertal DNA and autoimmune diseases, prostate cancer and type 2 diabetes. (2020-12-03)

African trade routes sketched out by mediaeval beads
The chemical composition of glass beads and their morphological characteristics can reveal where they come from. Archaeologists from the University of Geneva analyzed glass beads found at rural sites in Mali and Senegal from between the 7th and 13th centuries AD. The scientists demonstrate that the glass they are made of probably came from Egypt, the Levantine coast and the Middle East. The results show that international trade linking Africa to Europe and Asia during was connected with local and regional trade. (2020-12-02)

Warning signs over effectiveness of HIV 'wonder drug' in sub-Saharan Africa
Dolutegravir, the current first-line treatment for HIV, may not be as effective as hoped in sub-Saharan Africa, suggests new research published on World AIDS Day. The study finds that this so-called 'wonder drug' may be less effective in patients resistant to older drugs. (2020-12-01)

Towards accessible healthcare for all in sub-Saharan Africa
A state-of-the-art georeferenced database of public healthcare facilities. In the prestigious journal PNAS, a new study published with the contribution of the RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment (EIEE) provides a comprehensive planning-oriented, inequality-focused analysis of different types of healthcare accessibility in sub-Saharan Africa. (2020-11-30)

Satellite images confirm uneven impact of climate change
University of Copenhagen researchers have been following vegetation trends across the planet's driest areas using satellite imagery from recent decades. They have identified a troubling trend: Too little vegetation is sprouting up from rainwater in developing nations, whereas things are headed in the opposite direction in wealthier ones. As a result, the future could see food shortages and growing numbers of climate refugees. (2020-11-26)

Middle Stone Age populations repeatedly occupied West African coast
In a study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science Reports, researchers from the Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar, Senegal, the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (MPI-SHH), and the University of Sheffield, reveal evidence of Middle Stone Age occupations of the West African coast. Ranging from 62 to 25 thousand years ago, the largest well-dated assemblages from the region clearly document technological continuity across almost 40,000 years in West Africa. (2020-11-20)

Greater mosquito susceptibility to Zika virus fueled the epidemic
By experimentally comparing wild populations of Ae. aegypti the researchers discovered that the invasive subspecies is very effective at transmitting the Zika virus not only because it has more frequent contacts with humans for blood meals, but also as a result of its greater susceptibility to the virus relative to the African subspecies. (2020-11-19)

'Domestication' increases mosquito's zika virus susceptibility
The Aedes aegypti aegypti subspecies of mosquito, which has become a ''domestic'' pest worldwide, can acquire and transmit Zika virus more easily than its African forerunner. (2020-11-19)

East African Rift System is slowly breaking away, with Madagascar splitting into pieces
''The rate of present-day break-up is millimeters per year, so it will be millions of years before new oceans start to form,'' said Stamps, an assistant professor in the Virginia Tech College of Science.  (2020-11-13)

A cost-effective program to fight COVID-19 in resource-challenged countries
A public health strategy that combines contact tracing and community-based screening with isolation and quarantine centers can substantially reduce infections, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 while being cost-effective in low-and-middle-income countries like South Africa, a study by Massachusetts General Hospital has found. (2020-11-13)

Analysis of seroprevalence in Kenya suggests virus exposure more extensive than reported
Researchers analyzing blood samples from blood donors across Kenya estimate that by June 2020, when many COVID-19 deaths were expected in the country but hadn't occurred at such scale, 4.3% of Kenyans had antibodies to the virus. (2020-11-11)

The first duckbill dinosaur fossil from Africa hints at how dinosaurs once crossed oceans
The first fossils of a duckbilled dinosaur have been discovered in Africa, suggesting dinosaurs crossed hundreds of kilometres of open water to get there. (2020-11-05)

New research reports discovery of 5-million-year-old honey badger-like animal
Five million years ago, dangerous carnivores - such as giant wolverines and otters, bears, sabertooth cats, and large hyaenids - prowled the West Coast of South Africa. Today we can confirm that, among them, fearlessly roamed a smaller relative of the living honey badger. (2020-11-02)

New Denisovan DNA expands diversity, history of species
Ancient Denisovan mitochondrial DNA has been recovered in sediments from Baishiya Karst Cave, a limestone cave at the northeast margin of the Tibetan Plateau, 3280 meters above sea level and adds more evidence to the record that Denisovans, a group of extinct hominins that diverged from Neanderthals about 400,000 years ago, may have more widely inhabited northeast central Asia. (2020-10-29)

Reforestation plans in Africa could go awry
An international team led by an UdeM researcher publishes the findings of a study on the biogeographical history of sub-Saharan Africa. (2020-10-28)

Socio-demographic determinants of overweight and obesity among mothers in South Africa
To investigate the socio-demographic determinants of overweight and obesity among mothers of primary school children living in a rural Dikgale Health and Demographic Surveillance System Site in South Africa (2020-10-28)

Major new African genome study finds varieties that inform African history, migration and immunity
More than three million new genetic variants were uncovered in one of the most extensive studies of high-depth-sequenced African genomes reported to date. The major new study, published today as the cover story in Nature, provides insights into ancient migrations along the routes of populations who speak Bantu languages. Analyses of the whole genomes of 426 individuals from 13 African countries, whose ancestries represent 50 ethnolinguistic groups from across the continent, inform these findings. (2020-10-28)

Seasonal Forecasts Improve Food Supply
Developing more precise seasonal forecasts to improve food supply for a total of 365 million people in eleven countries in East Africa, this is the goal of the new CONFER project. In particular, more precise precipitation forecasts are deemed important to increase agricultural yields. Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is one of nine partners of this international project that is funded by the European Union with a total amount of EUR 7 million. (2020-10-27)

African crocodiles lived in Spain six million years ago
The crocodiles that inhabited the coasts of North Africa during the late Miocene period embarked on a journey to Europe across what is now the Mediterranean basin. This is confirmed by the analysis of the first fossils of the Crocodylus genus in the Iberian Peninsula, found in the Valencian site of Venta del Moro between 1995 and 2006, and which are now being described for the first time. (2020-10-22)

Preventive drugs halve malaria cases in African schoolchildren
Giving preventive drugs to school-age children in Africa substantially reduces malaria infections and cases of anaemia, according to a new study in The Lancet Global Health. (2020-10-22)

Mass screening method could slash COVID-19 testing costs, trial finds
Using a new mathematical approach to screen large groups for COVID-19 could be around 20 times cheaper than individual testing, a study suggests. (2020-10-21)

Fear of COVID-19 raises risk of depression among Soweto's deprived communities
A STUDY into the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on the mental health of people in Soweto has found a significant link between symptoms of depression and how likely people felt they were to be infected. (2020-10-19)

Modern humans took detours on their way to Europe
Climate conditions shaped the geography of settlement by Homo sapiens in the Levant 43,000 years ago / findings of Collaborative Research Centre 806 'Our Way to Europe' published in 'PLOS ONE' (2020-10-14)

New global temperature data will inform study of climate impacts on health, agriculture
A new data set provides high-resolution, daily temperatures from around the globe that could prove valuable in studying human health impacts from heat waves, risks to agriculture, droughts, potential crop failures, and food insecurity. (2020-10-13)

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