Foldscope Part II: Facilitating Zika Research & Grass Root Data Sharing In Honduras

With 4785 cases of Zika and counting, the government of Honduras recently declared a state of emergency.

El Salvador warned its citizens to hold off on their family planning for at least two years so doctors and scientists can come up with a cure.

The clock is ticking. The rainy season in Honduras is just about to begin and will last until November.

Foldscope and technology like WhatsApp present a unique opportunity in the fight and mitigation against Zika.

I arrived at the Instituto Rubén Barahona Oviedo on a Tuesday after a long ride from the capital, Tegucigalpa. This small school serves over 200 students and is located in a tiny village called  San José del Potrero in Comayagua.  A 32 year old institution with a small team of dedicated teachers who are doing their best to educate  the youth of this small farming community.

The students are eager to learn, hard working and do their best to raise money so their school can try to cover their basic needs. For the last 9 years they have been toiling over raising money to build bathrooms. Bake sales, casual dress days and raffles have contributed but the project completion is still far off.

You can only imagine how estatic they were to receive the foldscopes.

Students from the Instituto Ruben Barahona Oviedo in San Jose del Potrero
Students from the Instituto Ruben Barahona Oviedo in San Jose del Potrero

Through a series of empowerment lectures I covered topics like how to stay protected during mosquito season, the importance of canvassing areas for containers where mosquitos can breed and how to manage family planning with cycle beads. The latter is a long standing taboo in Latin America and the Caribbean.  Throughout my humanitarian travels, I have found the cycle bead necklace facilitates the conversation.

Frequent power outages and low bandwidth presented difficult challenges for this project. Cell phones and Whatsapp‘s chat and broadcast features kept us connected and on track.

Wednesday after a torrential downpour, the students and I canvassed the area around the school for larva samples. Zika larva are distinguisable by a breathing tube that is located near its tail. Coincidentally the Aedes mosquito causes Zika, Denghue and Chickengunya.

aedes mosquito larvae

We found a crate of soda bottles near the football field and were able to secure some samples.

Soda bottle crate
Soda bottle crate

We did not find mosquito larvae in our samples but we were able to secure mold from the bottom of one of the bottles.

Alternaria
Alternaria

The students’ reactions to the specimen samples were priceless.

Our next step is to get teachers Wendy Mariel Abel and Omar Abener Sandoval blogging about their students’ foldscope experiences. Power outages and lack of internet bandwidth will make it challenging. Our Plan B is to have the images sent to me via WhatsApp and for me to upload them to the Microcosmos blog from the US.

Stay tuned for future progress reports!

 

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Manu Prakash says:

    Thrilled to read this @TinaCornely; and so glad to see a post from Honduras. Really hoping to read more posts from the teachers. It’s nice to see both Nicaragua and Honduras engage. I could see some friendly competition 🙂

    cheers
    manu

    1. tinacornely says:

      I am excited too! Using WhatsApp to conduct teacher driven foldscope assignments will become an excellent tool for the teachers as it will make distribution more streamlined, save time and allow the teacher to see who received and read their assignment. Audit trails are important for research and data gathering. I emailed the science teacher from the Instituto Ruben Barahona Oviedo but she has not responded. I asked my contact to please ask her if she received my email. My suspicion is this may be a connection issue. More to follow!

  2. Project1808 says:

    This was a great read!
    Our organization works in Sierra Leone and we used our Foldscopes to increase understanding of the microscopic world in hopes of empowering our students to protect themselves against Ebola. It’s great to see how these are now being used in efforts to educate about Zika.
    Looking forward to reading more updates!

    1. tinacornely says:

      Good day Project 1808! Thank you for your kind words. Every day I learn about new ways the #foldscope is being used for vector and disease control. The sky is the limit! In terms of Ebola mitigation, imagine if you took a sample of residue from unclean hands and applied aloe gel (from the plant) and another sample with soap and then another with clorox. It would be interesting to see the different reactions that each sample would have through the foldscope. This might even help drive the important point home about hygiene! PS: Watching live chemical reactions unfold under the foldscope gets kids hooked on the unlimited potential of the foldscope!

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