MSU AND INRB AGAINST KONZO DISEASE: A GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP TO PROTECT AFRICAN CHILDREN FROM TOXIC FOOD
Michael J. Boivin, College of Osteopathic Medicine
Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale
Konzo disease, a sudden-onset permanent paralysis of the legs, results from eating cyanide in improperly prepared bitter cassava root, a staple food source for 600 million people worldwide. The cyanide damages nerves that control voluntary leg movement. Tragically, young women and children are most vulnerable.
More than a decade ago, MSU psychiatry professor Michael Boivin and his colleagues at the Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale (INRB) formed a partnership to eradicate konzo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They discovered that children with konzo also have deficits in areas such as information processing and memory, and adapted a two-pronged approach to understand and prevent factors that increase konzo risk. Dr. Boivin contributes his scholarship and expertise in neurocognitive testing for African children and financial support through grants. INRB provides facilities, study staff, scientific oversight, and culturally sensitive implementation of public health research programs.
With support from NIH and MSU’s Alliance for African Partnership, the MSU/INRB konzo partnership has produced landmark scientific papers and presentations worldwide and trains students and researchers from Africa and North America. It continues to expand neuroscience research capacity in DR Congo by building upon this multidisciplinary, cross-cultural, international framework.