Why is there Need for Long-Term Investment in the Uganda Virus Research Institute, The Home of Zika?

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In early 2016, people across the United States became aware of a new threat—Zika virus. A New York Times article that April featured a description of the discovery of Zika virus in “a remote Ugandan lab” in the 1940s.[1] But while that story acknowledged the contributions of scientists in Uganda, it mistook the laboratory in question, the Ugandan Virus Research Institute (UVRI), for a “remote” place when in fact it was, and is, a major center for virus research. Indeed, while the processes that led to the isolation of Zika virus have been detailed many times (first in the scientific publications that announced its discovery and preliminary epidemiological and clinical findings in the 1940s and 1950s, and more recently in retrospective accounts following the outbreaks in Latin America), these accounts have largely omitted the institutional context in which Zika was first discovered.

Such accounts have obscured the legacies of institutional investment, personal dedication, and professional commitment that led to the Zika virus and many other discoveries, the importance of which may not yet be fully appreciated. Moreover, while retrospective accounts have celebrated the European and North American scientists credited with Zika’s discovery, they have largely ignored the Ugandan scientists who continued the tradition of virological and entomological investigations in Entebbe, ensuring the survival of the institute and its records, knowledge, and resources.

In this post, we offer a different account of Zika virus, one in which its discovery is an entry point into a broader history of the UVRI and the people who worked there. In doing so, we combine autobiographical and historical narrative, drawing on our experience as an entomologist who has worked at the UVRI since 1965 (Mukwaya) and as a historian who has studied the history of virus research in Uganda (Cummiskey).

Over the years, the institution where Zika was discovered has been known by several names, including the Yellow Fever Research Institute, the East Africa Virus Research Institute (EAVRI), and finally, the UVRI. We discuss the work that allowed the UVRI to survive the transition to Ugandan independence, the violence of successive authoritarian regimes, the devastation of a Civil War, and the imposition of economic austerity measures. The evolution of the UVRI from an imperial and colonial institution to a regional cooperative venture to a national institute with partnerships across the world has been the result of strategic positioning and a record of excellence in research. The historical context of the institution that discovered Zika virus shows that when global institutions invest in long-term, stably funded institutions around the world, they produce unanticipated dividends, such as the discovery of Zika virus. As North American and European governments limit or cut funding to overseas scientific research and training, it is important to reflect on what that funding has achieved in the past. The UVRI’s commitment to creating and curating important data about viruses that, like Zika, travel from “remote” Ugandan forests to the metropolises of Southeast Asia, the Americas, and Europe, illustrates what the global community stands to lose when governments divest from such institutions.

The 2016 New York Times article described researchers in the 1940s “stumbling” onto the Zika forest and its “petri dish” of viruses. In one sense, this was the case. No one had been looking for Zika virus. But the research that the field workers were conducting in Uganda was systematic, deliberate, and very well-funded. In 1936, the Rockefeller Institution’s International Health Division reached an agreement with the colonial government of Uganda to establish a laboratory on the banks of Lake Victoria to study yellow fever. Yellow fever was one of the most feared epidemic diseases in colonial Africa, and the recent discovery of its presence in East Africa raised fears that it might cross the Indian Ocean, infecting the heretofore unaffected Indian subcontinent and wreaking havoc on imperial trade. The Yellow Fever Research Institute was created to establish the limits of yellow fever endemicity, the animals involved in its transmission, and the environmental factors that dictated its spread. Among other things, this involved collecting hundreds of thousands of mosquitos.

The career of the first Ugandan scientist to work at the UVRI offers a case study in the ways that international support for institutions like the UVRI built capacity to tackle both known and unanticipated problems related to virus research. Louis Mukwaya’s career illustrates the value of work done by Ugandan scientists and the continencies that shape what we know and don’t know about Zika and related viruses.

In 1965 Alexander J. Haddow, director of the EAVRI and one of the scientists credited with discovery of the Zika virus, retired and moved back to his native Scotland. In August of that same year, Mukwaya joined the staff of the institute as its first Ugandan scientist. Mukwaya was born in 1939 in the Luweero District of central Uganda in a village called Kangavve. He developed an interest in studying medicine and pharmacy when, as a young boy, an herb applied by his auntie cured a serious swelling of his eyes that Western medicine had been unable to fix. In 1960, Mukwaya began a course in zoology at Makerere University College. Lectures by Peter Miller and Hugh Rowell, Cambridge University zoologists and in particular, Miller’s account of the tower in the Zika forest where scientists were studying the feeding behaviors of different species of mosquitoes—sparked Mukwaya’s interest in mosquito research and inspired him to take up a career in entomology.

Rowell assigned Mukwaya a special project: to develop a way to breed nsenene, the local grasshopper, in the laboratory—a feat that had thus far eluded scientists. Mukwaya’s success meant that entomologists could now study the mechanisms for color variation and other characteristics. This research ultimately led to an offer to join the EAVRI as a trainee entomologist in 1965. After Uganda gained independence from Great Britain in 1962, and expatriate employees of the colonial government were leaving the country, the EAVRI and similar institutions were in the process of “Africanizing” their scientific staff. By the standards of the time, the highly skilled Ugandans who had worked at the Institute for decades were not considered scientists, so Mukwaya became the first Ugandan scientist on the EAVRI staff.

Both local experience and international support was vital to the EAVRI’s survival during the political upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s in Uganda. In his first several years at the EAVRI, Mukwaya learned the techniques for collecting and identifying wild mosquitos from experienced technicians, including Yovani Ssenkubuge. Ssenkubuge was a veteran of entomological field work who had spent several decades at the Institute. He taught Mukwaya about managing his field staff and how to operate in the field. For his PhD, Mukwaya researched the genetic basis of Aedes simpsoni mosquitoes’ feeding preferences (this work was supervised by Rowell); this led to a 1973 postdoctoral fellowship at Princeton, funded by the WHO.

Image 1: Pinned mosquitoes and other specimens from Mukwaya’s collection

By the end of the fellowship, the political situation in Uganda, where Idi Amin had seized power from Milton Obote in a coup in 1971, had deteriorated to the point where Mukwaya’s supervisor at Princeton attempted to persuade him to stay in the United States. But Mukwaya was committed to his research on Aedes simpsoni, and needed to be in a place where the mosquitos could be collected.  He returned to Uganda at the end of 1974 and kept a low profile. In 1976 the state of affairs in the country worsened, with Amin’s regime violently repressing real and imagined dissent across the country and with increasing commodity scarcities. In the span of two years, both the director and deputy director of the EAVRI fled the country. In 1977 Amin withdrew Uganda from the East African Community, the international body representing the governments of Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya which oversaw the EAVRI. Only a skeleton staff of mainly technicians and junior staff remained at the nationalized and re-named Uganda Virus Research Institute. Under the circumstances, Mukwaya found himself appointed acting Director of the Institute.

Mukwaya’s management skills, learned from senior technicians at the EAVRI like Ssenkubuge and from his experience in international laboratories, were vital to the persistence of the Institute. If the UVRI had collapsed, its collection of perishable specimens, its institutional memory, and its potential for future renewal would have been irretrievably lost. Amin had directed that if the UVRI staff were to abandon the site, the institution would be turned into a military hospital or barracks. In order to prevent this eventuality, Mukwaya recruited scientists and technicians who had lost their jobs at other now-defunct East African Community institutions, with whom he kept the UVRI operating.

When war with Tanzania broke out in 1978, Mukwaya and his colleagues were unable to maintain a robust research program, but they kept the generators running with fuel supplied by sympathetic soldiers based at the airport in Entebbe. This preserved a collection of sera, virus isolates, and reagents that represented a rare, if not unique collection of raw material for arbovirus studies with unknown potential for future use in identifying and studying human disease. They also permitted a baseline level of research to continue. Because many people in the area feared being infected by viruses, the Institute escaped wartime looting.  

International funding remained critical to Mukwaya’s work, and to the work of the UVRI more broadly, in the years following Amin’s regime. In 1979, after Amin had been deposed, the WHO funded another fellowship for Mukwaya to study at the University of Florida in Gainesville. In Gainesville, Mukwaya learned techniques in biological control and insect pathology with a view to setting up a laboratory for biological control of mosquitoes in Uganda. Mukwaya was also invited by the Body of Science and Technology for International Development (BOSTID) in Washington D.C. to attend a meeting on mosquito research and draw guidelines for determining strategies for developing countries. When he returned to Uganda, Mukwaya won a number of grants from BOSTID, which he used to equip his laboratory in Entebbe. That funding secured the UVRI’s first computer. Mukwaya’s international contacts allowed him to contribute resources to the institution whose survival he had helped to ensure in the previous decade. In 1984, the U.S. Academy of Sciences offered a grant to Mukwaya to spend six months at the University of Notre Dame to learn new techniques for Aedes simpsoni species differentiation. This knowledge enabled several subsequent BOSTID-supported projects in Uganda.

Investment in Mukwaya’s career by people in Uganda and abroad also served the interests of the broader community of people responsible for studying and controlling arboviruses. After returning to Uganda in 1981, Mukwaya started collaborating with colleagues in the United States to study microbes pathogenic to mosquito larvae—research which continues today. When a yellow fever outbreak occurred in Nigeria in 1987, Mukwaya was recruited as a WHO consultant to investigate the epidemic. While there, he collected Aedes mosquitoes from different parts of Nigeria which he shipped to the Entebbe laboratory for future studies. His career has included work at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and collaborations with the scientists at the Vero Beach laboratories in Florida, the British Museum, and the Liverpool School of Medicine—ventures that resulted in publications and further avenues of investigation for him and his collaborators. In 2009, Mukwaya was honored by mosquito taxonomists who named a subgenus, Stegomyia (Mukwaya), for him in recognition of his contributions to medical entomology, especially knowledge of Aedes simpsoni.

Image 2: Photograph of Dr. Louis Mukwaya in the insect pathology laboratory at Gainsville, Florida in 1979

Mukwaya understands his work as a continuation of a legacy in entomology and arbovirology started by the scientists who ran the Institute when Zika was discovered. When most of the research at the Institute was disrupted after the breakup of the East African Community in 1979 and during the War of Liberation that followed Amin’s overthrow, Mukwaya saw himself as a custodian of the Institute’s legacy. And when international attention to HIV/AIDS in Uganda led to vast international investments in AIDS-related projects at the UVRI in the late 1980s and 1990s, Mukwaya advocated for continued support for basic research in medical entomology and arbovirology, building on the foundations established in the 1930s and 1940s.

Mukwaya’s story, and those of the scientists who came before him at the UVRI and worked alongside him, illustrate how situating the production of medical knowledge outside the so-called west provides a new window on the history of international health. By profiling Mukwaya and other UVRI scientists of different generations, Cummiskey is working to understand how he and other scientists in Uganda understood, navigated, and shaped their relationships with international partners over several decades. This historical work aims to show that Ugandan scientists have been crucial to the production of knowledge about viruses and will be crucial to the continued growth of that knowledge. The histórias of these scientists suggest new ways of thinking about relationships between countries with resources to invest in global health programs and the countries in which those programs are implemented, such as Uganda. As Mukwaya’s story demonstrates, these relationships are complicated, and can have long-term benefits for all involved, though the Ugandan partners have historically struggled to receive proportionate recognition for their work. But as countries like the United States threaten to cut funding for institutions where these collaborations take place, both present and future expertise is jeopardized.

Mukwaya’s investment in training junior scholars has ensured a continuity of knowledge production in Entebbe. One of Mukwaya’s earliest trainees, Julius Lutwama, is now the assistant director of the institute. Another former trainee, John Paul Mutebi, works for the United States Centers for Disease Control. Mukwaya also worked to protect Zika Forest, with its 120-foot steel tower, from threats to cut it down for timber and redevelopment, work that was recognized by the NIH. Today, at the tower in the forest where Zika virus was first discovered, new work on the mosquitos responsible for disease transmission continues.[2]

Image 3: View from atop the 120-foot-tall steel tower in Zika forest, Uganda

Sustained investment in virus srveillance, research, and management is crucial to combatting diseases like Zika virus. As one journalist put it in 2016, “Uganda Discovered Zika Virus. And the Solution for It.”[3] Support for the institutions and careers of scientists based in Africa is a critical component of that solution. The World Health Organization, individual researchers affiliated with laboratories in the United States and the United Kingdom, and the government of Uganda have all supported Mukwaya’s career and made it possible for him to continue to create scientific knowledge and train junior researchers.

Zika virus is just one of many viruses whose discovery and rediscovery was made possible by people like Mukwaya, and failure to invest in these international research sites and the scientists that work there threatens to undermine the infrastructures that protect the global community from those viruses.

In a 1951 comment that seems remarkably prescient more than half a century later, a colonial official opining about the future significance of the institute noted, “The virus known as Mengo Myeloencephalitis [sic] was discovered during yellow fever surveys and was first regarded as a discovery of purely local interest. But further work in the United States of America and Entebbe and the correlation of the respective results now indicate a probable worldwide distribution of the virus although its epidemiological significance is still quite unknown.”[4] Like Mengo encephalitis virus, Zika virus started out as a local curiosity. But while Mengo has remained relatively obscure, Zika has certainly eclipsed its local origin. The story of the UVRI and the people that have worked there is a reminder that the world relies on such institutions to study those curiosities before they become global threats.


[1] Joshua Kron, “In a Remote Ugandan Lab, Encounters with Zika and Mosquitoes Decades Ago,” New York Times April 5, 2016.

[2] See, inter alia, M. Lukenge, J. Birungi, Jonathan Kayondo, Charles Masembe, and Louis G Mukwaya , “Isolation and Molecular Characterization of Gram Positive Entomopathogenic Bacteria Against the Major Malaria Vector Anopheles gambiae in Uganda,” International Journal of Mosquito Research 4,1 (2017): 50-57.

[3] Andrew Green, “Uganda Discovered the Zika Virus. And the Solution for it.” Foreign Policy 2016,

[4] Memorandum from Eric Horgan to the Administrator of the East African High Commission, n.d. [1951], UK National Archives CO 927/180/8.”


Omwaka 2016 nga gutandika, entiisa yabuna egwanga lya America olwo’bulwadde obupya obuleetebwa akawuka ka zika virus. Mu mwezi ogwokuna ogw’omwaka ogwo, olupapula olututumufu olumanyiddwa nga New York Times lwafulumya ekiwandiiko ekyanyonyola okuvumbulwa kwa kawuka kano mu ka labalatole ke’balengezza nga akatono mu Uganda mu myaka gya’1940. Newankubadde nga ekiwandiko kino kyasiima emirimu gyabanasaayaansi mu Uganda, kyafebya obunene wamu nobukulu bwa labolatole eno kati emanyiddwa nga Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI), era eyebuzibwako mu nsi yona kubikwatagana nokunonyereza ku buwuka buno. Wadde nga emitendera gyo’kuzuula akawuka kano gyinyonyoddwa mu biwandiiko bingi, gyireseyo nnyo obukulu bwekifo akawuka mwekasoka okuzulibwa.

Ebiwandiiko bino tebigyeyo bukulu n’amanyi ga kitongole kino kyegatekamu mu kunonyereza, okwewayo kwassekinomu, nobunyikivu mu bakozi obwavirako okuzula kw’akawuka ka zika virus nokuvumbula okulala kunji nnyo. Obukulu bwabino byonna tebusiimidwa mu bujjuvu. Wabula ebiwandiiko bingi bisiimye nnyo banasaayaansi bebulaaya na’obomumambuka ga Amerika olwokuzuula akawuka ka zika virus. Abawandiisi bano tebaafaayo nnyo ku banasaayaansi ba Uganda abagenda mumaaso nokunonyereza ku buwuka buno awamu n’ensili ezibusasanya nga zilumye abantu. Bana’Uganda bano baalwana okulaba nga ekitongole kibelawo awamu n’obugagga bwa’kyo ngo’kwo kwotadde n’ebiwandiiko.

Olupapula lwaffe luno lugyayo okunyonyola okwenjawulo okw’okuzulibwa kwa zika virus, nga kugyayo ekifananyi ekigazi ku byafaayo bya UVRI n’abakoledemu. Mu kola kino tutadewamu ebikwata ku Louis Mukwaya ne’gyenvudde we, okusinzira ku bumanyirivu bwe nga’ omukugu mu’nsiri akoledde UVRI okuva 1965 n’omukyala Julia Cummiskey ng’omukuggu asomye ebyafaayo ebikwata ku kunonyereza ku buwuka bunno mu Uganda.

Mu myaaka egiyise, ekitongole ekyazuula zika virus, kimanyiddwa amannya agawerako nga mwe muli Yellow Fever Research Institute, East Africa Virus Research Institute (EAVRI) oluvanyuma nekiyitibwa UVRI. Nga tulambulula emirimu egiyimiriza wo UVRI okuva mu meffuga ga Uganda, entalo ezitatade ne byenfuna by’eggwaanga okubeera nga tebisobola kuwanirira mirimu. Okwo gatako olugendo lwokuva mu mefuga okudda ku buwereza bw’omukago gwa East Africa okutuuka ku kuwereza eggwanga nga batta omukago ne bitongole ebirala mu nsi. Ebyafaayo byekitongole ekyazuula zika biraga nti ensimbi bwezisigibwa mu bitongole nga bino ensi efuna ebinonogo ttoge. Mukiseera nga kino nga gavumenti za bamusiga nsimbi zikendeeza obuyambi, kyandibadde kikulu okwefumitiriza kumigaso ensimbi  zebasiga kye zikoze mu bbanga eriyise. Emirimu gya UVRI gyekozze mu kunonyereza ku buwuka obunyunyusi n’endwadde ez’enjawulo giraga nti ensi yona okutwaliza awamu yejja okufiirwa singa gavumenti zabamusiga nsimbi zikendeeza ku buyambi.

Ekiwandiiko ekyafulumizibwa mu lupapula lwa New York Times mu 2016, kyalambika nga okuzulibwa kw’akawuka ka zika bwekutaali kugenderere. Newankubadde nga essira ku mulimu gw’okunoonyereza lyali ku musujja gwe’nkaka (yellow fever), naye entegeka eyakolebwa yali esobozesa okuzuula ebintu ebirala bingyi omwo nga mwemuli na’kawuka ka zika. Mu 1936 Rockefeller International Health Division yakiriziganya ne gavumenti ya Uganda era ne bakola endagaano okutekawo labolatole ku njegoyego z’enyanja Victoria, okunonyereza ku byomusujja gw’enkaka. Omusujja gunno ogwe’nkaka gwe gwali gusinga okutiissa ku ssemazinga wa Africa era bwe gwazulibwa mu East Africa, kyaletawo okutya nti obulwadde bunno buyinza okusala ssemayanja Indian ne busasana amawanga ga buyindi ne buzinggamya ebyobusubuzi byabafuzi bamatwale. N’olwekyo Yellow Fever Research Institute yatondebwawo okuziyiza okusaasana kwomusujja gwenkaka mu bisolo na byona ebiyinza okuyamba okusasaana okwo. N’olwekyo kyali kyetagisa okukwata enkuminenkumi z’ensiri okunonyamu obulwadde obwo

Emirimu gya munasaayansi, muna Uganda eyasooka okukola mu UVRI gituwa ekyokuyiga ng’obuyambi obuva ebweru bwebusobola okuyamba ebitongole nga UVRI okusomesa abakugu abasobola okukola ku bizibu ebimanyidwa n’ebyo ebitanamanyika ebikwatagana kukunonyereza ku buwuka bwa virus. Nga ekyokulabirako; tutunulira emirimu egikoleddwa Louis Mukwaya; gilaga emigaso gwe’mirimu egisobola okukolebwa banasaayaansi ba Uganda nokulambulula kwebyo byetumanyi ne ebitanamanyika  ku zika virus ne ku viruses endala.

Mu 1965, Alexander J Haddow, senkulu wa EAVRI, era nga y’omu ku banasaayaansi abatenderezebwa okuzuula akawuka akanyunyunsi aka Zika, yawumula era nadayo mu nsi ye eya Scotland. Mu August w’omwaka ogwo era, Mukwaya yaweebwa omulimu mu kitongole kinno nga muna saayaansi eyasooka mu Uganda. Mukwaya yazalibwa mu 1939 ku kyaalo Kangave ekisangibwa mu distirikiti ya Luweero. Mukwaya yafuna ekinyegenyege ekyokusooma obusawo bwa bantu bweyalwaala eriiso nga akyaali muto senga we namujjanjabisa eddagala ly’ekinansi nawona so nga ate yasooka kujjanjabibwa ne ddagala ezzungu neriremererwa. Mu 1960, Mukwaya yatandika ku misomo gye ejjobukugu mu Zoology ku kasoszi ka bayivu emakerere. Abamu ku basomesa be baali Peter Miller ne Hugh Rowell okuva mu Cambridge University. Yayagala nnyo ebyasomesebwa’nga Miller naddala ku  kuluma kwensiri ku kanaala mu kibira kya zika. Bino byasanyusa nnyo Mukwaya era nasalawo okusoma ensiri n’ebiwuka ebirala okutwalira awamu.

Rowell yawa Mukwaya pulojekiti ey’ozaaza ensenene mu labolatole ekintu ekyaali kisoomozeza banasaayaansi ebiseera ebyo. Obuwanguzi bwa Mukwaya mu kukola okunonyereza kunno kyasobozesa banasaayaansi okusoma engeri langi gyezikyukamu ne neeyisa yensenene okutwalira awamu. Okunonyereza kunno kwa muletera okwegata ku EAVRI asobole okubangulwa mu biwuka mu 1965. Uganda bwe yafuna obwetwaze mu 1962, abazungu abasinga badayo mu nsi yabwe n’ekitegeza nti EAVRI yalina kudukanyizibwa banansi. Okusinzira ku mbeera eyaliwo ebiseera ebyo, abamanyirivu abaali bakoleddeko mutendekero eryo okumala ebyasa baali tebatwalibwa nga bana-saayaansi. N’olwekyo Mukwaya nafuuka munasaayansi eyasooka mu Uganda mu kitongole kya EAVRI.

Obumanyirivu obwaliwo n’obuwagizi obwava mu bitundu ebirala by’ensi byali bikulu okuyimirizawo emirimu gya EAVRI wadde nga bwali budde bwakusomoza olwobutabanguko obutatade obwali mu gwanga wakati wa 1960 ne 1970. Mu myaka jje egyasooka, Mukwaya yayigirizibwa obukodyo bw’okukwata ensiri z’omunsiko. Omw. Ssenkubuge Yovani nga yali mukugu mu kukwaata ensiri era nga yomu ku bali baludde mu EAVRI ye yatendeka Mukwaya namuyigiriza n’engeri y’okuddukanya emirimu n’okulembera abakozi ebweru wa laboratole. Mukwaya mu kusoma kwe okwa PhD, yanonyereza ku buttonde bwe kika kyensiri Aedes simpsoni ne ngeri gye zelobozamu ebyokulya (genetics of feeding preference). Rowell yayamba nyo mu byokusoma kuno. Kino kyamutusa ku kweyongerayo okusoma postdoctoral mu Princeton University mu 1973 nga ayambibwa ekitongole ky’obyobulamu munsi yonna (WHO).

Ensiri ne’biwuka ebirala nga biterekedwa mu kasanduuke

Mukwaya nga amaliriza okusoma, embeera y’obyobufuzi mu Uganda yali eyononese nga Idi Amin amaze okuwamba Obote mu 1971, kino kyaletera omusomesa we okwogerako naye oba yalisiimye okugira nga asigalako mu America. Naye Mukwaya yali yemalidde mu kunonyereza’kwe ku’nsiri Ae. simpsoni era nga yetaaga okubeera mu kifo wasobola okukunganya ensiri eyo; kwe’kukomawo mu Uganda mu 1974 neyekumira mu mbeera eyobutalaga buyivu bwe. Mu 1976 embeera yebyobufuzi muggwanga yali esajuse kumulembe gwa Amini nga ebintu ebikozesebwa mu bulamu obwabuligyo tebikyalabika. Mu banga erya emyaka ebbiri omukulembeze wekitongole (EAVRI) namuddirira badduka mu ggwanga. Mu 1977 Idi Amin yagya Uganda mumukago gwa East Africa ogwali gulabirira EAVRI. Abakozi abasiigalawo bali batono ate nga okusinga ba ddaala lya wansi. Mukiseera kyekimu erinnya ly’ekitongole lyakyusibwa nekifuuka Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI). Mumbeera eyo, Mukwaya yesanga ngalondeddwa okubeera senkulu wekitongole owekiseera.

Obukugu bwa Mukwaya mukukwasaganya emirimu bweyayiga okuva mu bakugu nga Ssenkubuge nokukolerako mu labolatole ezenjawulo ebweru w’eggwanga byali bya mugaso nnyo mukusigalawo kw’ekitongole kino. Singa ekitongole kino kyaggalawo, ebyali bikunganyiziddwa ebisobola okwonooneka, wamu n’ebyo ebyandibadde bijjukirwa ku kitongole era n’omukisa gwakyo okuzibwawo mu biseera ebijja kyandibadde tekikyasoboka. Amin yali awadde ebiragiro nti singa abakozi ba UVRI baali bonna badduse, ekifo kyandifuuliddwa eddwaliro lyamaggye oba nkambi ya maggye. Mu kugezaako okuziyiza kino Mukwaya yakomyawo abakozi abaali bafiiriddwa emirimo gyaabwe olwa Uganda okuva mumukago gwa East Africa era kino kyekyamba ekitongole okusigala nga kiddukanyizibwa.

Olutalo bwelwabalukawo ne Tanzania mu 1978, Mukwaya ne banne tebaasobola kukuuma mirimu nga gigenda mu maaso, naye baasobola okukuuma generata nga kweziri olw’amafuta agabawebwanga abasirikale ab’ekisa okuva ku kisaawe kyennyonyi Entebbe. Kino kyakuuma ekunganyizo ly’omusaayi n’obuwuka bwa viruses okwo kwosa ne’bikozesebwa mu labalatole ebitalabikalabika era ebyomugaso mu kunonyereza. Kino kyayamba okufuna entandikwa yokunoonyereza okwebiseera ebyomumaaso. olwokuba abantu bangi mu kitundu  baali batya okufuna obulwadde obuva ku virus ezaalowoozebwanga nti ziri mu kitongole, bwekityo ekitongole bwekyawona okubbibwa (looting) mu biseera bye ntalo.

Obugabirizi bwa mawanga gebweru bwasigala nga bukulu nnyo mu mirimo gya Mukwaya ne mirimo gya UVRI okutwalira awamu mu myaka egyagoberera obufuzi bwa Amin. Mu 1979 nga Amin amaze okugyibwa kubufuzi, ekitongole kyobulamu ekyensi yonna (WHO) kyawa Mukwaya omukisa omulala okusoma mu yunivasite ya Florida mu Gainesville. Mu Gainesville, Mukwaya yayigirayo obukodyo bwokutta ebiwuka nga tukozesa enkola eyobutonde (biological control) no’kusoma obulwadde bweebiwuka (insect pathology) nge ekigendererwa kwekutandikawo laboratole ekola ebintu nga bino mu Uganda. Mukiseera kyekimu Mukwaya yayitibwa aba Body of Science and Technology for International Development (BOSTID) mu Washington D.C. okwetaba mu lukiiko olukwata ku kunonyereza ku nsiri nokutema empenda ezokulungamya okukendeza obungi bwensiri mu mawanga agakyakula. Mukwaya bweyakomawo mu Uganda, aba BOSTID bayongera okumuwagira nga bamuwa ensiimbi emirundi egiwera zeyakozesa okuteka ebikozesebwa mu laboratole ye Entebbe. Obuyambi buno bwafunira ekitongole komputa yakyo eyasooka. Obututumufu bwa Mukwaya mu mawanga agebweru bwayamba okufunira ekitongole ebintu ebyeyambisibwa mu mirimu gyokunonyereza. Mu 1984, ekitongole kya Amerika Academy of Science kyawa Mukwaya omukisa okwongera okusoma obukodyo obupya obwokwawula ebika ebiri mu nsiri Ae.simpsoni mu University of Notre Dame okumala emyezi mukaaga. Amagezi gano gasobozesa okweyongera kw’obuyambi obugabibwa BOSTID eri okunonyereza mu Uganda.

Obuyambi bwabantu ba Uganda awamu naabo abebweru obwaweebwa Mukwaya, bwayamba abantu bangi abaali ku mulimu gwokuyiga n’okukendeeza viruses ezisasanyizibwa ensiri. Mu mwaaka 1981, Mukwaya nga amaze okukomawo mu Uganda yatandika enkolagana nebanasaayansi banne mu America okunonyereza kubuwuka obuletera ensiri ento obulwadde era okunonyereza kuno kukyagenda mumaaso ne kusaawa yaleero. Bweyali akyakola ebyo ate newagwawo obulwadde bw’omusujja gw’enkaka (yellow fever) e Nigeria mu 1987 obwatta abantu abangi ennyo. Ekitongole kyensi yonna ekyobulamu (WHO) kyayita Mukwaya agende e Nigeria nga omukugu eyebuzibwako ku nsiri ezisasaanya obulwadde obwo no kusomesa abantu be Nigeria ebikwata ku nsiri ezo awamu n’okukendeza obungi bwaazo. Bweyali e Nigeria yakwata ensiri ezireeta omusujja gw’enkaka okuva mu bitundu bingi ebye Nigeria naziwereza Entebbe mu labolatole okuzeyambisa mu kunyonyereza mu biseera ebyomumaso. Omulimu gwa Mukwaya gwamusobozesa okukolerako mu Smothsonian Institution mu Washington D.C. Lino no lyekumiro lyensiri enkalu (insect museum) ezikunganyizidwa okuva mu bitundu byensi ebyenjawulo. Era Mukwaya yakolagana nnyo nebanasaayansi abe Vero Beach mu Florida abakola ennyo kunsiri, British Museum ne Liverpool School of Medicine mu U.K. Mu bino byona mwavamu okuwandiika empapula ezimu ezasasaanira ensi yona era nokulaba ebyetagisa okunonyerezebwako ebipya eri Mukwaya nebane abo. Mu 2009, banasaayaansi abakugu mu’nsiri (mosquito taxonomists), bagonomolako Mukwaya ekitiibwa ekitatere kulabikalabika erinya lye bweryatumibwa ekika kyensiri gyebayiita ‘Stegomyia(Mukwaya)’ kwakola okunonyereza ng’asiimibwa olw’emirimu emirungi gyakoze kunsiri eyo nekunsiri endala ezireta obulwadde.  

Ekifananyi kya Dr. Louis Mukwaya nga’ali mu laboratole ya insect pathology mu Gainsville, Florida 1979

Mukwaya amanyi emirimu gyakoze nga egyongereza kw’egyo egya banasaayansi abali baddukanya ekitongole mu kiseera zika we’yavumbulwa. Okunonyereza okusinga obungi bwe kwakyankalanyizibwa olwokwekutula ku mukago gwa East Africa mu 1979 era ne mu lutalo olwamamulako Idi Amin, Mukwaya yeelaba nga ateresedwa ekitiibwa nobukulu bw’ekitongole. Newankubadde nga sente nyingi zatebwa mu kulwanyisa sirimu mu myaka gya 1980, Mukwaya yasigala awagira okwongera obuyambi mu kunonyereza mu ebyo ebyali bikolebwa ku ntandikwa yekitongole kino mu 1930 ne 1940.

Ebyafaayo bya Mukwaya nabo banasaayansi abajja ku UVRI ne bakola naye, bilaga nti amagezi ku byobulamu ebweru wensi zabazungu, gasaawo essuula’empya ku byafaayo byobulamu munsi yona. Mu kukunganya ebikwata ku Mukwaya ne banasaayaansi abalala ku UVRI mu mirembe egyenjawulo, Cummiskey agezako okuzula engeri ye ne banasaayaansi abalala mu Uganda gye bakolaganangamu na’babawa obuyambi ebanga eriyise. Emirimu gyebyafaayo gino gigenderera okulaga nti banasaayaansi be Uganda babadde era bajja kwongera okuba empagi luwaga mu kwongera okuzula ebipya ebikwata ku viruses. Ebyafaayo byabanasaayansi biretawo endowoza empya eyokukolagana wakati w’ensi ezirina obuyambi ne nsi eziringa Uganda entegeka zino ezobulamu gyezitebwa mu nkola. Nga ebikwata ku Mukwaya bwebiraga, enkolagana zino sinyangu wabula zisobola okuvaamu ebirungi ebirwawo eri abo bona abazetabyemu, newankubadde nga banasaayaansi be Uganda balafubanira ddala okumanyikwa olwemirimu gyebakoze.   Mu kaseera kano nga ensi nga America etiisatisa okukomya enkolagana zino nensi nga Uganda, ebyo byona ebikolebwa n’ebyandikoledwa biba bbifa ttoge.

Okufaayo kwa Mukwaya okusomesa banasaayaansi abato kiyambye okukuma omutindo awamu nenkulakulana ya UVRI. Omu kubayizi ba Mukwaya abasokeladala gwe bayita Julius Lutwama, kati ali kudaala lya addirira omukulu wa UVRI. Ate era omuyizi omulala gwe bayita John Paul Mutebi kati akolela mu America mu kitongole kya CDC. Mukwaya alwanye okukuma Zika forest awamu nakanaala kakyo akafuuti 120 obutatemwamu mitti gy’embaawo. Olwomulimu guno yasiimwa ekitongole kya America ekyebyobulamu ekiyitibwa National Institutes of Health (NIH). Nabulikati, mukibira kino zika virus mweyazuulibwa, emirimu kunsiri ezi sasaanya obulwadde gyikyagenda mu maaso.

Akanaala ake’fuuti 120 mu Zika forest, Uganda.

Obutassa mukono mukunoonya obuwuka bunno, n’okubunonyerezaako, awamu n’enkwaata y’emirimu ennungi, bikulu nnyo mu kuziyiza obuwuka nga zika virus. Nga munamawulile omu weyakyogera, nti “Uganda yazuula akuwaka ka zika virus nekanogela ne daagala”. Amakulu gaali nti Uganda okuzuula zika virus kyasinzira kuntegeka ennungi ne’nkologana eyaliwo namawanga agebweru. Ekitongole ky’ebyobulamu munsi yonna ekya WHO, banasaayansi mu labolatole za America ne Bungereza, ne gavumenti ya Uganda, boona bawaniridde Mukwaya okusobola okweyongerayo mu kunonyereza awamu n’okusosmesa emijijji emito egya banasaayansi.

Okuzuula kwa zika virus n’obuwuka obulala obwefananyirizaako obwo, kisobose olw’o kubaawo kw’abantu nga Mukwaya. N’olwekyo, okusaalako obuyambi ku bitongole nga UVRI na bakozi bakyo kisanyaawo ebitongole bino ebikola okutukuuma ng’ensi eri obuwuka nga zika virus.

Mu mwaka gwa 1951, omufuzi omu nga ayogera kubiseera byo mumaaso bya UVRI, yagamba nti, “akawuka ka Mengo Myeloencephalitis kazuulibwa mu kaweefube wo kunonyereza ku kawuka akalala ak’omusujja gw’enkaka era mu kaseera ako kaalowozebwa okubeera akawuka akatono. Naye okunonyelaza ku kawuka kano gye kugenze kweyongera mu UVRI ng’ekolagaana ne America, kiraze nti akawuuka kano kandiba nga kabunye kumpi ensi yona yadde nga obubi bwako tebunaba kumanyibwa bulungi.  Kati nga bwekiri ku Mengo encephalitis virus, bwekityo bwekyali ku Zika virus bwe yalowozebwa nga akawuuka akatono nga tekanaba kubuna nsi. Mu kiwandiiko kino ekikwata ku UVRI n’abakozi baakyo kijjukizo nti ensi yona yesigamye ku bitongole nga UVRI okunonyereza ku buwuuka buno nga tebunafuuka bwattabu.

Works Cited

Kron, Joshua. “In a Remote Ugandan Lab, Encounters With Zika and Mosquitoes Decades Ago.” New York Times. April 5, 2016.

Cohen, Jon. “Zika’s long, strange trip into the limelight.” Science. February 8, 2016,

Green, Andrew. “Uganda Discovered the Zika Virus. And the Solution for it.” Foreign Policy February 10, 2016.

Julia Ross Cummiskey is an assistant professor of history at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga and a postdoctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins University Institute for the History of Medicine. She is writing a book about the history of virus research in Uganda.

Louis Mukwaya is an entomologist at the Uganda Virus Research Institute, where he has worked since 1965.

Julia Cummiskey akola’nga assistant professor owebyafayo ku University of Tennessee-Chattanooga era’nga postdoctoral fellow mu John Hopkins University Institute for the History of Medicine. Mukisera kino, awandiika ekitabo ekikwaata ku kunonyereza ku virus mu Uganda.

Louis Mukwaya akola’nga entomologist ku Uganda Virus Resaerch Institute, gyakoledde okuva mu 1965.

One reply on “Why is there Need for Long-Term Investment in the Uganda Virus Research Institute, The Home of Zika?”

I have come to appreciate the the nature and character of a real scientist, and how much sacrifice and commitment can achieve! I also learn that some of the experiences that come our way are not in vain….but to clarify the road to our destiny. For Dr. Mukwaya it was the persistent eye problem that pointed to his destiny…….and see…. this far it has come. Colaboration is key, africa still has a lot of unknown science, but funding is a problem, zika would have gone unknown up to now, or research would begin after a pandemic…as has been or is in the case of zika. Many thanks to our commited fathers in research, colaborators and donors.

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