Agnes Antoinette Ntoumba is a researcher from Cameroon which carries the high burden of malaria. She is also an inventor of an atypical larvicide developed from plants to fight the deadly disease in the continent.
"In Africa, we have the advantage of a varied and diversified flora. Not all plants react to this process, but the majority do. The ones we use are in our daily environment," she said.
Surrounding plants and leaves from trees, which she keeps secret, are the ingredients she uses to make her mosquito larvae killer. But what makes this project special is the nanotechnology.
This is "an asset" because nanoparticles are currently involved in all areas of science but have not always been associated with plants, the Cameroonian researcher told Anadolu Agency in confiding the features of her solution.
Used differently from insecticides, which the researcher finds infective and harmful to the environment and human health, this larvicide is made to destroy the larvae of mosquitoes that cause malaria.
As a doctoral student in science, Ntoumba started research on this solution by working on the subject of nanoparticles under the guidance of her university supervisors. She believes the results of her work are yet to be "fanciful". She obtained them by working in her neighborhood, collecting and sorting larvae with the help of her relatives.
"The effectiveness of this solution has been proven after several tests. I had a whole flat in my house for this work. Our product quickly killed the larvae we used. I also continued my experiments in my university laboratory. The results were always conclusive," she reported.
Recently she was listed among the 20 young women scientists in Africa by UNESCO and the L'Oreal Foundation. She had applied for this award and the meticulous work of the experts who award it proves the effectiveness of this larvicide, according to her.
It is intended for all people and will be widely available at very low prices. Ntoumba would like all households to be able to obtain it.
"If every home uses it, it will become widespread among people and everyone will be able to benefit from it. We can really talk about reducing malaria because it will eliminate the number of vectors," she explained.
The researcher takes advantage of nature to create her product and thinks that she should provide services at affordable prices because she does not pay for the raw material, i.e. the plants.
Ntoumba regrets the fact that people take advantage of malaria to make money by creating harmful products while many people mourn the deaths due to malaria.
"People are dying from this disease. So we have to find solutions. It is a necessary fight," she said.
But for large-scale production she has to mobilize resources that are not yet available. So far she has used her own funds, those of the university laboratory and the support of her relatives. The UNESCO prize also accompanies her until the end of her thesis and she hopes to obtain other partners' support.
In the long term, her project also aims to fight against global warming by planting several trees. It will also create jobs by hiring farmers, vendors and more staff for the manufacturing and distribution chain.
The young Cameroonian woman also plans to further develop her solution so that it can be used on mosquito nets to repel mosquitoes. She does not intend to stop and will “continue to find solutions against other insects as well without harming people's health,” Ntoumba said.
Never having hoped for international acclaim as she does now, Ntoumba confessed that her dream and motivation has always been to come out of her laboratory with a solution that saves lives.