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    NATNAT Newsletter – Inaugural Edition

    16 March 2023

    NATNAT Newsletter – Inaugural Edition

    NATNAT: Newly Adapted Tools and Network Against
    Mosquito Borne Disease Transmission

    The NATNAT project aims to strengthen capacity to assess and adopt new vector control tools to combat vector borne disease transmission in Papua New Guinea. Led by the Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research and the National Malaria Control Program, with partners from James Cook University, Burnet Institute and IVCC, the NATNAT project aims to develop a framework for rapid assessment and adoption of new vector control tools, allowing for a more rapid pathway for the implementation of VCTs identified as being efficacious to the country. The project aims to strengthen infrastructure and technical capability to test promising alternative vector control tools including residual spraying, larval source management and spatial emanators. We aim to provide evidence-based information to the PNG National Department of Health, and other stakeholders and partners regarding the feasibility, acceptability, cost effectiveness and efficacy to be expected when implementing these tools in PNG. 

    Construction Update

    We are very excited to announce that construction of the new PNGIMR entomology laboratory, insectary and semi-field mosquito tunnel cage was completed in 2022! The team has the keys and have moved in their equipment and mosquito colony to continue their work testing vector control tools. The official opening will be held on Tuesday 28th March 2023. The facilities were given the name of “PNGIMR Belna Natnat Centre” which pays homage to ‘Belna’ the small community where the facilities are built and ‘Natnat’ the Tok Pisin word for mosquito. The facilities are the first of their kind in the Pacific and will allow the team to further study novel vector control tools, a central pillar in the fight to control and eliminate malaria.

    A short film was created by NATNAT PNGIMR team member, Barry Peter, that documents the history of the current entomology lab in Yagaum and the construction of the Belna Natnat Centre. This was showcased at the PNGIMR Virtual Symposium “Innovation for Better Health” in September 2022 and can be viewed on the PNGIMR youtube channel.

    Below are some photos from the key handover day that took place at the end of 2022

    Meet the team!

    In 2022, PNGIMR Senior Research Officer, Michelle Katusele, received a TWAS fellowship  to spend three months at the Ifakara Health Institute (IHI) Vector Control Product Testing  Unit in Bagamoyo, Tanzania. Michelle’s fellowship was an opportunity for her to receive  mentorship, training and first-hand experience in the semi-field and field testing of Spatial Emanator products. It was also a great opportunity for her to get exposure to IHI’s semi-field testing system (known as i-ACT) as the design of the recently completed PNGIMR Belna Natnat Centre semi-field tunnel cage was informed by this system at IHI.

    The objectives for the training fellowship was to become familiar with the standard operating protocols and experimental designs used in the evaluation of the effectiveness of SE products and other VCTs in semi-field systems and field trials. Under the tutelage of Professor Sarah Moore, Mr. Kyeba Swai and the VCTPU staff, Michelle observed and learned firsthand various aspects and technicalities of conducting experiments in semi-field systems and in the field environment. These included observations of experiments using the i-ACT as well as field trials using experimental huts.

    Furthermore, interactions with the IHI researchers enlightened Michelle of the important considerations of designing experiments that investigate the various research questions for product evaluation, as well as operational processes such as coordination of test mosquito samples, field or study team delegations and responsibilities, the flow of experimental activities and importantly, the coordination and interaction of study volunteers. 

    A highlight of the training was the opportunity to accompany IHI VCPTU researchers to attend the 8th Pan-Africa Mosquito Control Association (PAMCA) Annual Conference and Exhibition in Kigali, Rwanda. The different studies presented at the meeting added another layer of information that could help guide the future VCT evaluation studies and further explorations into mosquito biology and control in PNG. Now that she is back in Madang, Michelle will lead the NATNAT project’s Spatial Emanator field study in 2023. This will be the first time that SE devices will be tested in PNG and will give Michelle the opportunity to put into practice all that was learnt on her fellowship at Ifakara Health Institute and transfer these skills to fellow PNGIMR researchers. 

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