Posts tagged as: asian

Rwanda: Rwanda Targets New Buyers at Ongoing Specialty Coffee Conference in Japan

Rwandan specialty coffee processors are looking to clinch key export deals at the ongoing annual Specialty Coffee Conference and Exhibition (SCAJ) in Japan, enabling them to expand the export market and attract new buyers.

The expo, that started on September 20 and closes today, brought together all sorts of coffee specialties across the world and their owners, including five Rwandan coffee companies and a National Agricultural Export Board (NAEB) representative, to create more market linkages, NAEB said in a statement yesterday.

Through meeting and seminar opportunities at the conference, it is expected that Rwanda specialty coffee brands will be promoted and gain more visibility at the international market, according to Dr Gatarayiha Celestin, the head of the coffee division at NAEB, who led the delegation.

Gatarayiha added that the expo is an opportunity to identify a new market niche for Rwanda coffee and establish more linkages with different international specialty coffee markets.

“We are exposing our coffee to the Asian specialty coffee importers, roasters and retailers, and providing vital information leading to a better understanding of our coffee industry,” the NAEB official noted.

At the Rwanda coffee brand booth, the country’s coffee, known for its good quality in the world is being exhibited to more than 27,000 expected visitors of the trade show, the statement added.

According to NAEB, Rwanda participated in the previous exhibition in 2015 and “reaped” good deals, whereby eight different coffee companies have been buying Rwanda coffee as a result of contacts and meetings.”

For the last five years, the country’s coffee export to Asia increased significantly from 67,361 kilogrammes of green coffee in 2011 to 1,546,061 kilogrammes this year, the agro-exports body added. The countries of destination in Asia are Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Oman and China.

Rwanda

Health Ministry Launches U.S.$5 Million Spraying Drive Ahead of Malaria Peak Season

The ministry of Health has launched a $5,098,326 indoor residual spraying (IRS) campaign in Kirehe and Nyagatare, some… Read more »

Tanzania: Agriculture Minister Inaugurates Fish Farm in Ruvu

By Gadiosa Lamtey

Kibaha — Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Dr Charles Tizeba on Wednesday, September 20, inaugurated the Ruvu fish farm located at Miswe village in Coast Region.

Current the fish farm has capacity of produce seven tonnes of tilapia per month and has established hatchery with a capacity to produce 500,000 fingerlings per annum.

The official inauguration was also attended by minister of Finance and Planning, Dr Phillip Mpango, Denmark ambassador to Tanzania, Einar Jensen and government representatives from Kibaha District and Coast Region.

Dr Tizeba said the project as timely because currently the country faces huge shortage of fish that forced businessmen to import fish from as far as China and other part of Asian countries.

“This fish farm has come at the right time when the government is planning to increase fish production capacity. Also villagers around the project will benefit,” he said.

For his part, the Director of Ruvu Fish Farm, Mr Poul Hansen said the project was established in 2015 and funded by Danida Business Partnerships Program at a cost of Sh2 billion.

He said they have partnered with a Tanzania company, BMAC and Walker as well as a Danish Company, Scanfi ApS.

“Our core area of business is producing and selling high quality Tilapia, supplying high quality fingerlings, fish feed and aquaculture equipment. We are also engaged in providing consultancy service in fish farming,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Jensen highlighted that Tanzania is one of the countries that have rich marine and inland waters resources as well as perfect all-year weather that can support a wide range of living aquatic resources that can be a steady guarantee of food security, revenue and overall economic development.

He said Ruvu fish farm is one if the projects under B2B initiated by the Danish embassy in Dar es Salaam.

Tanzania

Nairobi Doctors to Decide if Shot MP Can Fly to US

Doctors at the Nairobi Hospital will determine whether Singida East Member of Parliament Tundu Lissu is stable enough to… Read more »

Ethiopia: EPU to Finalize Power Supply Upgrading This Year

By Abiy Hailu

Ethiopian Power Utility (EPU) said the multimillion dollar power distribution capacity building, updating and upgrading project it has been undertaking to reduce duration and frequency of power outage will be completed this budget year.

While demand for electricity has been on the rise in the country, frequent power outage has for long been a major concern of and source of frustration for citizens and small and mega businesses alike. In Addis, the frequent power outage forced businesses to utilize power generators so that they go about their daily businesses smoothly.

However, nation has been massively engaged in expanding power production. For instance, the construction of Gilgel Gibe III Dam with a power output of about 1870 Megawatt (MW) was completed last year, thus more than doubling total installed capacity, according to the Ethiopian Electric power.

Gebregezabiher Taffere is Communication Directorate Director at the Ethiopian Power Utility, a company engaged in the business of distributing and selling electrical energy. He told The Ethiopian Herald that the major reason for the repeated power outage has been the low capacity of aged electric lines, transformers and poles. Hence, EPU is undertaking a rehabilitation project to repair and update electric power supply lines using fund from international partners.

“EPU is investing huge sums of finance and conducting capacity building and upgrading to reduce the frequency and duration of power outage,” he added. The new project would standardize electric supply to improve quality and service delivery.

The rehabilitation project in the capital and eight major urban centers will be fully finalized this Ethiopian budget year.

As to him, besides reducing the frequency and duration of power outage, the project would also ease power wastage and inefficiency and provide access to power to new customers.

The Addis Ababa project alone is being executed with a budget of 200 million USD, of which the Chinese Exim Bank provided a loan of around 163 million. The project is being undertaken by Power China, a Chinese company. The remaining financial loan for the capital’s and other projects was gained from the World Bank and oil producing countries, according to him.

The project would update old electric lines and replace the old wood utility poles with concrete ones. Some 146 km of underground electric line would also be installed in Addis Ababa.

While there are three projects in Addis, some 1000 km of electric line would be installed in one project alone. Several transformers and 20,000 concrete poles would also be installed.

Besides reducing power interruption, the ongoing project would also reduce security threats that electric lines and poles caused damage on human life and property previously.

The rehabilitation will also be expanded in other areas. “The project has also commenced in additional six cities with 1.7 billion birr and several others would also follow once feasibility study is conducted,” he said adding, “There are also other projects that are being carried out by foreign companies where Ethiopians are engaged in as sub-contractors.”

Ethiopia

Why Call Ethiopia an ‘African Tiger’?

It has been a while since Ethiopia earned the “African tiger” reference which came from the famous “Asian tigers”. The… Read more »

Nigeria: Obaseki Embarks On Investment Drive in Indonesia

Benin City — In a bid to revamp the agriculture sector; create jobs and reposition the state as the palm oil hub of the country, the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, is currently in Indonesia to deepen his administration’s partnership with the Asian country.

Speaking at the 101-year-old Indonesian Oil Palm Research Institute in Medan, Indonesia, Obaseki said his administration was keen on diversifying the economy of the state by taking advantage of its oil palm industry.

He stated that “with the present pace of research in the agriculture sector, palm oil can replace crude oil as a major source of food, industrial materials and energy.”

Obaseki said already, discussions are in progress to develop a business case to reinvigorate the oil palm sector in the state at a commercial level, after the state delegation was taken through the entire integrated process of oil palm production and processing.

The Indonesian research institute is made up of an oil palm plantation, processing plant, laboratories, nursery and oil palm refining facility.

The governor, who is accompanied by the state Commissioner for Wealth Creation, Cooperatives and Employment, Hon. Emmanuel Usoh, and the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Kadiri Bashiru, said the visit would explore the possibility of reaching agreements with the Indonesian Government to support the development of the oil palm sector in the state.

Indonesia is currently the largest exporter of palm oil in the world, and agriculture sector is the country’s most valuable export sector.

The sector of Indonesia accounted for 32 per cent of the total labour force in 2016 and in 2013, the sector contributed 14.43 per cent to national Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In 2014, Indonesia’s production figure for palm oil was 33.5 million tonnes and the product accounts for 11 per cent of export earnings of $5.7billion.

The choice of Indonesia for the strategic partnership, according to Obaseki, was informed by these statistics, including the fact that Indonesia is a global leader in palm oil export and is followed closely by Malaysia which came to Benin City to collect oil palm seedlings many years ago, precisely from the Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR).

He promised that the visit would yield results that the state agriculture sector requires to create jobs, raw materials for local industries, produce for export and time-tested research approaches to strengthen institutes like NIFOR and the College of Agriculture in Iguoriakhi, which is being repositioned to support the agriculture sector.

Tanzania Must Take Advantage of Its New Discoveries

By Saumu Jumanne

Of late Tanzania has made headlines overseas for two archaeological discoveries-findings of remains of a 5-tonne dinosaur and about 700-year-old abandoned site of ancient Engaruka ‘lost city’ in Tanzania.

According to scientists, the latter has revealed formidable farming practices, which they hold can be useful even in modern agriculture.

Many news outlets across the world carried the story indicating that “Engaruka is the remains of the largest abandoned agricultural system and terraces in sub-Saharan Africa.” The arid plains in the ‘lost city’ had large irrigated agricultural fields, described by researchers from the UK’s University of York as “sophisticated irrigation systems and terraces.”

For students of history particularly archaeology subsection, and geography, it’s an important discovery. It’s also one of the many discoveries that have come to prove that Africans were not as primitive as the colonial masters wanted everybody to believe.

The study, published in the journal Quartenary Research, indicates that the ‘lost city’ in Arusha had about 40,000 inhabitants who “were clearly highly skilled landscape engineers and agricultural managers.”

Tanzania is an agricultural nation. Its placating to have a prove that, before the Germans, Europeans and Arabs came to our land, we had homegrown civilisation, and a developed agricultural systems in some locations.

Going back further in history, we are the ‘cradle of civilisation’ thanks to Olduvai Gorge in Ngorongoro Crater. What lessons can we learn from our forefathers, like in Engaruka? Can we build such formidable irrigation schemes today, and make hunger history?

In the other development that got international coverage was discovery of remains of a new species of a giant dinosaur in Songwe Region said to have roamed in Southern Africa about 70 million years ago.

It’s good the new dinosaur, at least was given the name – Shingopana songwensis’ which has Kiswahili connotations. This site, can be of great value as a tourist attraction.

In the recent years Tanzania has been making international headlines thanks to new scientific discoveries, like the two addressed in the first part of this column.

I remember last year, it was discovered that, Tanzania has the tallest tree in Africa! This was at remote area in Kilimanjaro Region. Botanically, or scientifically the tree known as Entandrophragma excelsum and measured the height of 81.5 metres.

The discovery, puts Tanzania in particular and Africa in general on the list of the world’s record of tree heights. In their published paper titled “Africa’s highest mountain harbours Africa’s tallest trees” in the journal of Biodiversity and conservation (2017), the authors (Hemp, Zimmermann, Remmele, Pommer, Berauer, Hemp, and Fischer indicated that, the previous world tallest tree heights records were in American, Australian and Asian tree species, with no such records from any African country.

I agree with the study that the late discovery might be a result of “low study efforts undertaken at Kilimanjaro” despite its rich diverse biodiversity. Methinks perhaps it might be a result of little or no interest by the local communities who saw the tall tree as normal.

Which brings as to question, how many things in dear motherland, precious resources, that nature has bestowed on us, but we see them as of no value, but they are priceless?

How are we taking advantage of the discoveries that have been taking place occasionally, which gives our nation world recognition? For instance, at different times, new species both flora and fauna have been discovered and are only found in Tanzania, particularly in the Eastern Arc Mountains, but do we benefit?

In different parts of our dear motherland, there are thing which are unique, which holds potential for transforming the areas economically. But to what extent have we exploited for commercial gains on the new and old discoveries?

Saumu Jumanne is an assistant lecturer, Dar es Salaam University College of Education (DUCE)

Public Debt Crosses Sh4 Trillion Mark As State Eyes More Loans

By Brian Ngugi

Kenya’s public debt crossed the Sh4 trillion mark at the end of March this year, reflecting the Jubilee government’s sharp appetite for loans.

This has raised fears of the country’s future ability to repay the mounting credit.

The latest Quarterly Economic and Budgetary Review report released Wednesday by the Treasury shows that total public debt has now risen to an equivalent of more than half (52.6 per cent) of the gross domestic product (GDP), on the back of massive increase in borrowing since the Jubilee administration took power four years ago.

The public debt comprises 51.9 per cent foreign and 48.1 per cent domestic loans.

“The gross public debt increased by Sh782.3 billion from Sh3.26 billion as at the end of March 2016 to Sh4.04 trillion, equivalent to 52.6 per cent of GDP by March 31, 2017,” says Treasury in the report tabled in Parliament.

“The overall increase is attributed to increased external debt due to exchange rate fluctuations, disbursements from external loans and more uptake of domestic debt during the period.” The rate of increase in the debt load, however, does not correspond with growth in revenue generation, indicating the widening gap and mounting pressure on government’s capacity to repay loans.

The ability to generate and grow tax revenue is a strong indicator of future ability to repay debt.

The Treasury report shows that the government’s cumulative revenue collection for the period July last year to March this year amounted to Sh984.6 billion against a target of Sh1.05 trillion.

“This represented an under-performance of Sh65.9 billion mainly due to shortfalls in income tax, (fees, charges and court fines) collection, Investment Income and Imports Declaration Fee (IDF),” says Treasury in its documents.

The total external debt stock including the international sovereign bond stood at Sh2.1 trillion at the period ending March 2017.

The debt stock comprised multilateral debt at 38.4 per cent, bilateral debt at 32.8 per cent, commercial banks debt at 28.3 per cent including international sovereign bond and suppliers’ credit debt at 0.5 per cent.

Corresponding to the rising debt load, foreign interest payments rose to Sh38.2 billion in the period compared to Sh26 billion in the same period of the 2015/16 financial year. On the other hand interest payments on domestic debt totaled Sh145.8 billion, which was higher than the Sh122.6 billion paid in the corresponding period of the previous financial year.

According to the budgetary review, Kenya’s loan repayment to China stood at Sh18 billion over the period representing over half of the total bilateral loans (Sh32.8 billion) highlighting the country’s growing appetite for Chinese loans.

Kenya this week committed to borrowing additional billions of shillings to finance the ongoing construction of the standard gauge railway (SGR) line indicating that the borrowings could soon take the debt load past 60 per cent of GDP level.

On Monday the government announced it is seeking an additional Sh370 billion ($3.59 billion) Chinese loan to extend the SGR from Naivasha to Kisumu, pushing the construction cost to Sh847 billion.

The country has in the past four years borrowed billions of shillings to finance power generation and road construction projects.

In addition to Sh327 billion spent on the first phase between Mombasa and Nairobi and Sh150 billion that the emerging Asian economy extended recently for the Nairobi-Naivasha section, the Chinese will have pumped a total of Sh847 billion in the venture.

This excludes interest on the loans that would push the overall cost beyond Sh1 trillion.

Quartet Begins Training for WTF World Championships

By Geoffrey Asiimwe

Two national taekwondo team players and two of their Para-Taekwondo counterparts began training on Monday at Amahoro indoor stadium ahead of the 2017 WTF World Championships and Asian Para-Taekwondo competitions slated for June and July respectively.

The World Taekwondo Championships will take place from June 24 to 30 in Muju, South Korea while the third edition of Asian Para-Taekwondo Championships will be hosted in Chuncheon, also in South Korea, on July 1.

At the World Taekwondo Championships, Rwanda will be represented by Regis Iyumva in the Men U-58kg category, while Aline Ndacyayisenga will compete in the Women U-53kg category.

For the Asian Para-Taekwondo Open that is meant for martial artists with physical impairments, Rwanda’s flag will be carried by Jean Claude Niringiyimana, who was named the International Paralympic Committee’s Allianz Athlete for the month of April and Jean Marie Vianney Bizumuremyi.

Niringiyimana will battle in the K44 Male under-61kg, while Bizumuremyi, the national team captain, will compete in the K42 Male under-61kg category.

During this year’s second edition of African Para-Taekwondo Open, which was hosted in Kigali, Niringiyimana and Bizumuremyi scooped silver medals in their respective fight categories.

Rwanda

Experts Discuss Continent’s Security Challenges

A three-day national security symposium opened, yesterday, at the Rwanda Defence Force Command and Staff College in… Read more »

Dar Secures Chinese Cassava Market

Cement giants to produce 7m tonnes, create 4,000 jobs for Tanzanians

TANZANIA is among the potential beneficiaries of additional Chinese financing amounting to 14.5 billion US dollars (over 30tri/-) to execute infrastructure projects through the Belt and Road initiative.

And this week, Tanzania and the world’s second economy are scheduled to ink two agreements to open Chinese markets for cassava from Tanzania and set up an industrial park and cement factory in Tanga. Speaking at the opening of the Belt and Road Forum yesterday, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged the additional 14.5 billion dollars into the existing Silk Road Fund.

Launched in 2013 by the Chinese to create an open economic system based on balanced trade, the Belt and Road initiative tracks down the ancient silkroad route used by the Chinese traders.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and East African Co-operation, Dr Aziz Mlima, said the implementation of the Bagamoyo Port and its associated Special Economic Zone are among issues to feature at the global forum.

Launched in 2013 by the Chinese to create an open economic system based on balanced trade, the Belt and Road initiative tracks down the ancient silkroad route used by the Chinese traders.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and East African Co-operation, Dr Aziz Mlima, said the implementation of the Bagamoyo Port and its associated Special Economic Zone are among issues to feature at the global forum.

“Agreements for the projects were signed during President Jinping visit to Tanzania in 2012; the stage is now for their execution,” Dr Mlima told ‘Daily News’ in a telephone interview, naming other African countries that will benefit from the funding as South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia and Congo-Brazzaville.

The Minister for Works, Communication and Transport, Prof Makame Mbarawa, is representing President John Magufuli, at the meeting that has drawn leaders and officials from all over the world. And, speaking to this paper shortly after President Jinping opening speech, Tanzania Ambassador to China, Mr Mbelwa Kairuki, said cassava farmers in Tanzania have been assured of ready market in the Asian country.

“It is a good opportunity for our farmers; Nigeria for instance exports 3.2 million tons of cassava to China every year, earning up to 800 million US dollars,” Ambassador Kairuki stated.

The envoy explained further that there would be agreement on a joint venture by the two largest Chinese cement producers, China-SINOMA and Hegya to build the industrial park and cement factory in Tanga region.

“The plant is expected to produce seven million tons of cement and create 4,000 jobs,” he stated. Tanga Regional Commissioner Martin Shigela is also attending the meeting.

In his opening speech, President Jinping said the China Development Bank and Export-Import Bank will set up special lending schemes worth 250 billion Yuan (about 36.2 billion US dollars) and 130 billion Yuan (18.8 billion dollars) to support cooperation on infrastructure and industries.

The Chinese leader as well pledged aid amounting to two billion Yuan (290 million US dollars) to developing countries along the Belt and Road and additional contribution of one billion US dollars to the Assistance Fund for South-South Cooperation.

He said China will sign business and trade co-operation agreements with over 30 countries and enter into consultation on free trade agreements with related countries.

Also, President Jinping sought to attract countries to join the ambitious “Belt and Road Initiative” as China seeks to connect nations along the new Silk Road routes through economic cooperation and infrastructure development.

He said during the past four years, there had been deepened policy connectivity, enhanced infrastructure and trade link in addition to expanded financial inclusion in line with the vision of the Belt and Road Initiative.

President Jinping hailed achievements made over the past four years, saying over 100 countries and international organisations have supported and got involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.

He said China has signed cooperation agreements with over 40 countries and international organisations and carried out the framework cooperation on production capacity with over 30 countries.

At least 29 Heads of State and Government are attending the forum, the highest-profile international meeting on the Belt and Road since the Chinese President proposed the initiative in 2013.

Kenya: How Kenya Can Manage Its Increasing Dengue Fever Cases

analysisBy Andrew Githeko, Kenya Medical Research Institute

A public health alert for 150 dengue fever cases has been issued in Mombasa, Kenya. The Conversation Africa’s Health and Medicine Editor Joy Wanja Muraya spoke to Dr Andrew Githeko on the effective management of this disease whose spread is encouraged by water storage trends.

What causes dengue fever and what type of human behaviour favours its breeding?

Dengue fever, which is a mosquito-borne viral infection, is transmitted by two species of mosquito:

It’s transmitted by female mosquitoes mainly of the species Aedes aegypti which breeds in water containers in urban areas; and

Aedes albopictus, also called the Asian tiger mosquito, which prefers to lay its eggs in stagnant water in rural areas.

In 2016 there were about 390 million cases reported in the Pacific region, South East Asia and South America.

The first dengue outbreak in Kenya was reported in 1982 in the coastal region. In April to June 2013 and March to June 2014 outbreaks coincided with the long rain seasons that created a conducive breeding ground for the dengue mosquitoes.

There are two clinical forms of the disease referred to as dengue fever and dengue hemorrhagic fever:

dengue fever has symptoms similar to malaria which includes headaches, fevers, joint pains, fatigue, muscle pains, skin rash, pain behind the eyes and vomiting; and

dengue hemorrhagic fever is a more serious form of the disease that causes bleeding which initially appears as tiny spots of blood on the skin and grows into larger patches. This causes shock which could be fatal.

Dengue fever is mostly an urban disease driven by human behaviours of storing water in open containers inside or around homes. These are excellent breeding grounds and the close proximity to human beings increases the risk of getting the disease.

In periods of warm and wet weather for example during El Nino, the mosquito population increases rapidly and the virus in the mosquito also develops very quickly. An infection with more than one type of dengue virus can cause dengue hemorrhagic fever.

What treatment and management is available in Kenya?

There is no specific treatment for dengue so it’s managed by treating the symptoms.

However, there’s ongoing promising research for a viable dengue vaccine. Before then, we must work diligently to control the mosquitoes. This can be done through:

Environmental sanitation: the removal of discarded water containers and the covering of water storage containers should be encouraged to prevent breeding habitats;

Fumigation of houses: spraying the walls in houses with insecticides is a successful strategy in controlling the mosquitoes. This type of mosquito is most active just before dark and bites its victims before they sleep under mosquito nets. Long sleeved clothing and mosquito repellent are also encouraged as self protection.

Prompt medical attention and referral: the earliest complaints of unusual headaches, fevers, joint pains and vomiting should be treated.

If health facilities are unable to effectively test and treat, they can be referred to the Kenya Medical Research Institute.

If the number of cases reported doubles, this calls for urgent mosquito control and fever management.

Dengue symptoms are similar to those of malaria. However the presence of pain behind the eyes and a skin rash suggests a viral infection. A malaria test should be carried out to rule it out.

Dengue symptoms can be managed by pain killers, increasing fluid intake and having plenty of bed rest. Aspirin should be avoided because it increases the risk of bleeding. Further referrals should be done urgently.

Why has dengue fever spread globally?

The global spread of dengue is worrying and this is driven by world trade, climate change, urbanisation , mosquito habits and insecticide resistance.

The eggs of the mosquito species can survive long periods under dry conditions thus encouraging their transportation over great distances in ships , even across continents. Air transport enables infected persons to carry disease to areas infested with dengue mosquitoes thus increasing local transmission of the disease.

Research has shown that the Asian tiger mosquitoes, Ae. albopictus, has spread to Africa, Europe and South America. Climate change has increased the spread of dengue fever indiscriminately.

Africa is becoming rapidly urbanised thus encouraging poor environmental sanitation which increases the breeding of dengue mosquitoes. Overpopulation encourages the rapid spread of the disease and the lack of access to health facilities increases the risk of severe outbreaks.

What is the way forward in controlling dengue fever?

Water stored in households should be covered and pools of water destroyed.

Safe insecticides should be used to control the mosquito population. If the mosquito population is high, fogging – using a fine pesticide spray to kill the mosquitoes – can be used to kill any flying mosquitoes. However the use of fogging to control Ae. aegypti in Brazil did not show clear evidence of efficacy on the disease.

Finally, it takes personal responsibility to observe environmental sanitation to avoid breeding of these mosquitoes, dressing appropriately and applying repellent before resorting to the insecticides.

In case they develop resistance to the insecticide, we will have fewer effective options to control these nuisance mosquitoes.

Disclosure statement

Andrew Githeko receives funding from NIH and WHO.

We produce knowledge-based, ethical journalism. Please donate and help us thrive. Tax deductible.

Africa: What Elephants Teach Us About Cancer Prevention

analysisBy Joshua Schiffman, University of Utah and Lisa Abegglen

Every time a cell divides, there is a chance for a mutation (mistake) to occur in the DNA – the substance that carries genetic information in all living organisms. These mutations can lead to cancer.

If all cells have a similar chance of developing cancer-causing mutations, then very large and long-lived animals with more cells undergoing more cell divisions should develop cancer at a higher rate than smaller, short-lived animals with fewer cells dividing over less time.

But in 1977, Sir Richard Peto noted that humans develop cancer at a rate similar to mice. This is despite having 1,000 times as many cells and living 30 times as long. Another example of this phenomenon can be found in elephants. They are 100 times larger than people and can live 60 to 70 years, and yet, their cancer rates are exceedingly low.

Peto proposed that evolutionary considerations might explain the differences in per-cell cancer incidence across species. When comparing cancer rates in mice and men, he proposed that as humans evolved to grow larger and live longer throughout evolutionary history – with more human cells dividing over a longer period of time – that they also evolved to resist cancer. This surprising cancer resistance found in larger, long-lived animals, like elephants, has become known as Peto’s Paradox.

Our research team provided the first empirical data documenting cancer across species in support of Peto’s Paradox.

We showed that cancer mortality does not increase with body size or life span. Actually, we observed that some larger, longer living animals may develop less cancer. We calculated elephant cancer mortality rates at less than 5%, compared to human cancer mortality rates of 11% to 25%.

Elephants have had 55 million years of development to figure out how to resist cancer, and we hope that we can one day apply these lessons to develop effective treatments for cancer.

Cancer resistance

Our team looked at the genome of the African elephant for changes in oncogenes and tumour suppressor genes. Oncogenes can cause cells to grow out of control while tumour suppressor genes slow down cell division. These are the two main types of genes that play a role in cancer and could help explain potential mechanisms of cancer resistance in elephants.

Our analysis revealed the shocking discovery that elephants express many extra genes derived from the critical tumour suppressor gene TP53.

TP53 is called the “Guardian of the Genome” due to its ability to protect cells from accumulating cancer causing mutations. The TP53 gene responds to DNA damage, or pre-cancer, by stopping the cell from dividing until the DNA can be repaired. If the cell cannot fix the DNA, then TP53 causes the cell to die through a process called apoptosis. Sacrificing damaged cells prevents the propagation of cells with mutations that could lead to cancer.

People with Li-Fraumeni Syndrome have a mutation in one copy of their TP53 genes, with more than 90% lifetime risk to develop cancer. This high rate of cancer associated with TP53 dysfunction illustrates the critical role that TP53 plays in protecting us from cancer.

Naturally cancer resistant

Our lab at the University of Utah studies the broken DNA damage response in people with Li-Fraumeni Syndrome who are missing their TP53 genes and have a very high rate of cancer.

When we learned that elephants were naturally cancer resistant and also had 20 times as much TP53 as humans (40 gene copies total in elephants vs. 2 gene copies in healthy humans), we teamed up with Dr. Carlo Maley, an evolutionary and cancer biologist who helped to make the initial discovery about extra elephant TP53.

We used our clinical and research experience from studying patients with Li-Fraumeni Syndrome to try to understand if elephant TP53 could be playing a role in protecting elephants from cancer. Because we already were measuring TP53 function in people with and without Li-Fraumeni Syndrome, we could use the same laboratory tests to measure how elephant cells responded to DNA damage.

To perform these experiments, we collaborated closely with Utah’s Hogle Zoo (who have African elephants) as well as Ringling Bros. and Barnum Bailey Circus (who have Asian elephants). Both groups routinely draw blood from their elephants to monitor their health, and we received approval to study the blood when it was drawn for these routine elephant health screening procedures.

The blood was sent to our lab where the white blood cells, called lymphocytes, were exposed to ionising radiation to induce DNA breakage. We monitored how quickly broken DNA was repaired in the African and Asian elephant lymphocytes compared to human lymphocytes.

We predicted that elephant cells would repair their DNA faster than human cells, but discovered that the rate of DNA repair was similar between elephant and human cells. But we noticed something interesting about the elephant cells after it was exposed to radiation: more elephant cells than human cells underwent programmed cell death or apoptosis.

We next undertook rigorous experiments to compare the percent of elephant cells vs. human cells vs. Li-Fraumeni Syndrome cells that died from DNA damage, or pre-cancer.

We discovered that the amount of apoptosis correlated with the number of TP53 genes and that this followed the same pattern of lifetime cancer risk – elephants (~5%), humans (~50%), patients with LFS (~90%). This makes sense because more TP53 makes the cell more effective at removing pre-cancer cells that could go on to form cancer.

Learning from elephants to help people

We showed that elephant TP53 helps elephants to more quickly remove pre-cancerous cells with DNA damage and that this possibly contributes to elephant cancer resistance.

Now, we are focusing our research efforts to better understand the specific mechanism of how elephant TP53 works. The ultimate goal of our laboratory work is to help patients who already have cancer, and maybe even those people who could be at risk for cancer in the future.

We want to see if we can translate this fascinating discovery into an effective treatment for cancer, or maybe even potentially as a cancer prevention strategy. In the end, we are working to create a world with more elephants and less cancer.

Disclosure statement

Joshua Schiffman owns shares in PEEL Therapeutics and ItRunsInMyFamily.com.

Lisa Abegglen does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

The Conversation is a non-profit + your donation is tax deductible. Help knowledge-based, ethical journalism today.

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