Akebe Luther King Abia is an Aspen New Voices Fellow who stands for the recognition of the role that the environment plays in disease transmission, especially antimicrobial resistant ones, in Africa. Born in Africa and having travelled to many of the continent’s cities, slums and most remote places, I am an evidence-driven environmental microbiologist that strongly believes Africa can see a positive change in its deteriorated environmental conditions. I hold a PhD in Water Care with focus in Environmental Microbiology from the Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa.
I have been in the field of Microbiology in Africa for over 20 years now. In the past 5 years, I have worked as a microbiologist in many projects in South Africa and Egypt, some of which include: monitoring water quality (rivers, rainwater, boreholes) and soil for human pathogenic bacteria; investigating dynamics of microbial pathogens in riverbed sediments and how this relates to climate change and human health; testing new nanomaterials as alternative water and wastewater treatment tools; understanding the role of human cemeteries on microbial quality of groundwater; molecular epidemiology of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria in humans and animals; and monitoring and development of guidelines for rainwater harvesting as an alternative water source for human consumption. During this period, I have produced over 40 peer-reviewed journal articles in internationally recognised journals. I have also published 5 book chapters and a book titled “Current Microbiological Research in Africa, Selected Applications for Sustainable Environmental Management”.
I currently lead the Molecular and Environmental Surveillance Section of the Antimicrobial Research Unit at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Here, my research focuses on, but is not limited to, antimicrobial resistance in the environment and how this relates to resistance in humans and animals. This is done using a One Health approach and involves phenotypic and genotypic techniques. In doing this, I also supervise postgraduate students (PhD and MSc).
My goal is to contribute to the improvement of the environment, especially in Africa, through research, for present and future generations. I am also open to collaborations for works in this line as I believe that only through collaboration, can we have a global solution to the world’s environmental challenges.