Carving a path forward for practical science in PNG

I stand in no mans shadow
I am a light unto myself.
If I am to shine,
I must carve my own path before me.
I am not cast in darkness;
But if anything,
My light adds a brilliance of its own
To that which already shines so brightly ahead.



I haven’t met Elisheba Malau yet and she doesn’t know I’m writing about her here or that I stole her poem above from her Linkedin page. But I was just so encouraged by her scientific work and in her own way her carving out of her own path that I had to write something.

All too often we hear about problems in PNG, but its not often that you get people in PNG with the skills that can really break up a problem to look at where we can tackle it. Malaria in PNG is one such huge issue every Papua New Guinean has faced in one form or the other in their lives.

So lately our baby sitter had been back and forth to her local clinic, this had been going on for over a month now and she told us that she had been prescribed Malaria medicine for the last month or so after several trips and yet she said she didn’t feel like she actually had Malaria. I mean honestly, anyone in PNG would know if they had Malaria or not.

This obviously got me chatting with my missus about this dishing out of medicine for Malaria without doing tests. So I asked my sister Rebecca, who works at Institute of Medical Research, about whether they had Malaria tests like pregnancy tests and she explained that there were Rapid Tests like that which are in the market. See here.

But she explained further that apparently the majority of tests did not work properly with PNG’s species of Mosquitoes. The good thing though was that our young scientist Elisheba Malau had, just last year, completed a paper on Rapid Tests for PNG while studying at the University of Melbourne. It was titled a long scientifically sounding title of  ‘Investigation of polymorphisms in Plasmodium falciparum hrp2, hrp3, aldolase and pldh genes and their impact on the performance of malaria rapid diagnostic tests in Papua New Guinea.

She was even sponsored by Pacific MMI to attend a world summit on malaria in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil last year to share her research.
Now I’m not a scientist so I could be cheering without properly understanding her research at this stage, but if it’s what I think it is, then I would love to see her work progressed rapidly into real testing kits for distribution in the PNG market. And I hope she keeps on carving out a path forward for herself in her field because God knows we need more practical solutions in PNG!