Two South African researchers from historically disadvantaged institutions are among the thousands of scientists attending the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF 2016), which kicked of last night in Manchester, in the United Kingdom.
The three-day ESOF is one of the world’s leading platforms for showcasing research and promoting dialogue on the role of science and technology in society and public policy. This year will see over 600 speakers from more than 55 countries.
With financial help from the Department of Science and Technology (DST), researchers Dr Moliehi Matlala, of the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University and Dr Nontuthuko Ntuli, of the University of Zululand, are at the conference exchanging knowledge with their counterparts on topics such as antimicrobial resistance and the importance of indigenous plants for health.
One of the biggest ESOF themes is healthy populations, covering antimicrobial resistance, personalised medicine and humanitarian medicine, among other topics.
There will be a session on epidemics featuring Dr Paul Stoffels, Chief Scientific Officer at Johnson & Johnson, and Sir Andrew Witty, CEO of GlaxoSmithKline.
Speaking in Manchester, Dr Matlala said that the irrational use of medicine was one of the most serious global health problems, being both wasteful and harmful to populations across the world.
“In primary care in developing and transitional countries, less than 40% of patients in the public sector and 30% of patients in the private sector are treated according to standard treatment guidelines. Antimicrobials are misused and overused in all regions,” said Dr Matlala.
She said that the overuse and incorrect use of antimicrobials, such as antibiotics, resulted in many unwanted effects such as drug resistance, increased medicine costs, poor patient management and unnecessary adverse events, all of which caused serious morbidity and mortality.
Administering antibiotics correctly greatly improves patient care, and the wise use of these medicines should be emphasised. Strategic methods include evaluating antimicrobial use, feedback regarding the necessity and aptness of therapy, and the education of healthcare professionals and patients.
Dr Nontuthuko Ntuli took the opportunity of attending ESOF to share her research on the use of indigenous leaves for human health and nutrition.
Indigenous and traditional leafy vegetables are mostly herbaceous plants whose parts, mostly leaves, are used as vegetables. According to Ntuli, these plants are a good source of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients essential for human health.
Commenting on the significance of the forum, the DST’s Deputy Director-General: Socio-economic Innovation Partnerships, Imraan Patel, said ESOF was a perfect opportunity for local researchers to debate and explore how science and technology could be used to transform lives.
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