Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Innate immunity in leprosy then a beauty parlour visit.

This post covers a trip to Ethiopia with Anastasia Polycarpou, my Greek Cypriot post doc. We went to review the progress of Edessa Gobena, my Ethiopian PhD student and also to start a project that AP has got funding for. We stayed with Saba Lambert and her family, her engineer husband Gaby and her 4 year old son Leo. It is 20 years since I was first in Ethiopia; I came to ALERT and AHRI in 1994-5 to experience African leprosy before taking up my London consultant leprologist post. I could not have imagined then that I would have been returning over the years. This visit I have been consciously comparing Ethiopia now with that I visited 20 years ago.
Saba and I relaxed and swam at The Hilton in the volcanically heated water, very beneficial after a long haul flight.

On Wednesday morning we went to AHRI (Amauer Hansen Research Institute). Edessa showed AP around and the ARHI labs impressed her, they are more spacious than the London Labs and it is easier to work on leprosy here because one does not have the constraint of M. leprae being a Cat 3 pathogen.  AP gave an excellent presentation on two aspects of her work, the relationship between Toll Like Receptor 4 and M. leprae and the other on her proposed FCy receptors in ENL project. The latter was laid out well with 5 hypotheses and proposals for answering them. The audience was lively and engaged asked lots of questions. Later we discussed the project with the two AHRI scientists Rowley and Kidist and how we could maximise ARHI involvement, through a student or other collaboration. Kidist was cautious, Rowley optimist, as per their national stereotypes (Ethiopian and American). This is a good project and could spin off in many directions. I was very pleased with the day, AP has brought something new and useful to the group and it looks as though we could do major work here in Ethiopia. This all ties in with the growth of our international collaboration on ENL, ENLIST which will facilitate this.

Saba, AP and I celebrated with an ice cream and then a beauty session, I had my eyebrows plucked in beauty parlour in a new shiny glass fronted mall. I have become very aware of all the beauty parlours around Ethiopia and the adverts for hair and skin products. Reading “Americanah” by the Nigerian Chinamanda Ngozi Adiche made me aware of how important hair salons are in Africa and this is true in Ethiopia too

Gaby told me how the Chinese have priced the Africans out of the road building business so he has moved into town planning. The Ethiopian cities are growing fast, Addis is really sprawling with new high rises buildings dotted around randomly and new glass fronted malls beside the road. It has modernised but has also lost the charm and beauty of 20 years ago. Gary's team are making a presentation to a big workshop with the Ministry of Industry and Development and including the PM in the first week in February. Big projects and I hope they work out for him.  

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