Host organisation: Jenner Institute, University of Oxford, UK
Project title: Establishing an in vivo platform to test the immunomodulatory effects resulting from the consumption of solar irradiated microorganisms in water
Dr Cornelius Ssemakalu is a Senior Lecturer and Researcher in the Department of Biotechnology at the Vaal University of Technology. His research activities include bio-tissue regeneration, cancer drug discovery and immunomodulation (regulatory adjustment of the immune system).
His interest in immunomodulation was triggered by the need to understand the impact of solar disinfected water (SODIS) consumption on the immunity of consumers. Resource-poor communities use Solar Disinfection (SODIS) to sterilise water before consumption because it is cost-effective, environment-and user-friendly. However, there are a number of unanswered questions, an important one being whether consumers of SODIS water are self-vaccinating. If they are, then through herd immunity they reduce their contribution to the transmission of deadly water germs, and this could make leveraging the sun for vaccines a possibility in Africa.
Dr Ssemakalu says: “Perhaps sunshine indirectly shaped the evolution of our immunity [and] these exciting ideas require proper scientific proofs.”
AREF Fellowship research project:
Dr Ssemakalu visited The Jenner Institute (University of Oxford) where he worked closely with Dr Alexandra Spencer on establishing an in vivo platform to test the immunomodulatory effects resulting from the consumption of solar irradiated microorganisms in water. He plans to share his knowledge with his peers and postgraduate students and will also use the preliminary data and perspectives gained through the Fellowship to prepare a joint research proposal to explore the idea of solar-derived immunity further.