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Covid-19: Kenyan researchers test efficacy of local herbal medicine2 minutes read

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Dr. Festus Tolo, co-researcher in traditional medicine at his office at Kemri headquarters shows some of the pilot products. PHOTO|ANGELA OKETCH| NATION

Kenya’s leading research institute has begun exploring the efficacy of one of its herbal and traditional medicines likely to treat Covid-19.

Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) has identified Zedupex, an in-house herbal medicine used in the treatment of genital herpes, a common viral disease that causes sores on the mouth and genitals.

The drug licensed by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board in 2015 was developed by Kenyan scientists from medicinal trees.

The search for both a cure and a vaccine for the coronavirus has intensified around the globe, including in Kenya, as medical researchers race to find the elusive remedy.

Dr. Festus Tolo of Kenya’s Medical Research Institute is the lead scientist tasked with finding out whether a herb-based drug will be effective against COVID-19. Zedupex, developed in 2015 by Kenyan researchers, has been used in the treatment of herpes.

Tolo says his team does not know yet whether the drug will work against the virus.

“We are still in very early stages. We cannot be able to say, knowing that the herpes simplex virus is a DNA virus and the coronavirus is an RNA virus,” he said.

“This really means that we need to, first of all confirm or check whether there’s activity before we can be able to really say this is a product we can explore further for COVID management.”

The WHO’s Kenya representative Rudi Eggers says that standardizing the various herbal cures could be quite a challenge.
“In other medicines, we find that there are specific levels of the active ingredient and in herbal cures you frequently find varied components and the levels of those components in there,” Eggers said.

“So, in fact you’d have to standardize these cures to make sure that you know what is in them and what component is actually acting. So that’s quite a step to be taken before actually evaluating these cures.”

Zedupex is sold in small-scale through the institute’s production department. The researchers will be working in the laboratory to test the activity and safety of the compound on Covid-19 treatment.

The trials are being carried out at Kemri’s laboratory. The drug has not been administered to any coronavirus patient.

But as Kenya tries to explore the treatment of the virus with traditional medicines, the African Union says it will now start testing the controversial herbal remedy for Covid-19 from Madagascar.

At least five African countries continue to receive supplies of the remedy despite the World Health Organisation (WHO) warning about its use.
Despite these hurdles, researchers at KEMRI are pressing ahead with their study of herbal treatments for COVID-19.

Kenya itself has seen more than 1,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease so far, and about 50 deaths.

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Heavy rains threaten Uganda’s coffee crop quality

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Uganda’s coffee crop quality could see a decline in the coming months as heavy rains across the country have reduced the amount of sunshine necessary for bean drying.

Uganda is Africa’s largest exporter of coffee followed by Ethiopia and grows mostly robusta variety.

The country has been pounded by unusually heavy rains that started in August resulting in deaths, displacement and extensive damage to roads and other infrastructure.

Western Uganda, including the foothills of the Rwenzori mountains , some of the biggest coffee growing areas, has received some of the most intense rains.

Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), the state-run regulator, forecasts Uganda’s bean exports will climb 16 percent to 5.1 million 60-kg (132-pound) bags in the current crop year ending September.

The country’s coffee output has surged in recent years, the fruition of a government programme that has been distributing free seedlings to farmers to expand acreage and replace aging trees.

Authorities say their target is to help boost annual production to 20 million bags by 2025.

The beans have traditionally been Uganda’s biggest commodity export but were recently overtaken by gold which now annually earns the country over $1 billion.

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Tanzania, France sign water supply loan agreement

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Tanzania has signed a loan agreement with France to finance water supply projects that will benefit about 770,000 people in the country’s Morogoro municipality.

The French government will extend the loan worth about $76 million to Tanzania through its French Development Agency (AFD), according to Dotto James, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Planning who signed the agreement on behalf of Tanzania.

“Upon completion, the water supply in the Morogoro municipality will increase from the current 37,000 cubic meters a day to 108,000 cubic meters a day,” James told a press conference following a signing ceremony in Morogoro.

AFD Country Representative for Tanzania, Stephanie Mouen says the project will improve the well-being of the people in the municipality and it will also improve the environment.

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Uganda approves return of over 2,500 nationals stranded abroad

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Over 2,500 Ugandan nationals stranded abroad amid the Covid-19 pandemic can now return home as approved by the Ugandan cabinet.

The cabinet on Monday, agreed that Ugandan nationals trapped in 66 countries can return home at their own cost.

The government is making arrangements with the UN World Food Program (WFP) to fly the stranded citizens home, Judith Nabakooba, the country’s minister for information, communication technology and national guidance says, adding that all the returning citizens will have to undergo a 14-day mandatory institutional quarantine. 

President Yoweri Museveni last month, directed Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda to study the possibility of evacuating dozens of citizens stranded abroad amid Covid-19 pandemic travel restrictions. 

To contain the spread of Covid-19, the country on March 22 suspended all incoming flights, except cargo flights. 

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