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Help SFU Spread the Net

December 14, 2007

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A team of SFU biologists studying malaria wants to help reduce the disease by another means –  promoting the purchase of bednets.

They’re spearheading SFU’s involvement in the national Spread the Net campus challenge, initiated by Canadian journalist Rick Mercer and Unicef Canada. The project’s aim is to reduce the impact of malaria in poor regions of Africa.

Biologist Carl Lowenberger and students in his lab, in conjunction with the Faculty of Health Sciences, have already raised $4,600 toward their own $10,000 goal through the sale of the insecticide-treated nets.

“Bednets are the simplest and most effective protection against malaria because they protect people, mainly children, from mosquitoes that like to bite while you sleep,” says Lowenberger, who holds a Canada Research Chair in parasitology and vectors of disease.

“As is the case for most things, those who live in malaria endemic areas cannot afford bednets.” Lowenberger says malaria has the greatest impact on children, killing 3,000 children a day in many regions of Africa.

Through the campaign, a donation of $10 will purchase one bednet that will last about five years.

“This is a campaign that is close to the hearts of the students in our lab because we work with insect-borne diseases, including malaria, and we work in developing countries where these diseases are prevalent, so we know the impact this disease can have on families and communities,” adds Lowenberger.

Research in the Lowenberger lab focuses on the transmission of disease-causing organisms by insect vectors, and more specifically, the insect immune response to these parasites. The Faculty of Health Sciences has faculty members working on various aspects of disease epidemiology and public health, including tropical diseases such as malaria.

SFU is currently in third place among Canadian universities participating. The winning campus will receive a visit from Rick Mercer and play host to The Mercer Report. Contact Jerry Ericsson at jericsso@sfu.ca, Dawn Cooper at dmcooper@sfu.ca, or Carl Lowenberger at clowenbe@sfu.ca.

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