Reid and his team have developed new yogurts with the potential to reduce levels of potent environmental toxins that could have a tremendous impact on life in Eastern Africa. These yogurts contain lactobacilli bacteria that have the ability to sequester aflatoxins and heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and cadmium, and degrade some pesticides to remove them from the body. When these lactobacilli are added to locally produced foods, they may reduce morbidity associated with toxins – a serious problem in countries such as Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia.
The Grand Challenges grant will help Reid and his team continue their research and testing, which so far has involved tests in his London lab with Kenyan PhD student Nicholas Nduti, and a field-test which PhD student Jordan Bisanz performed at a primary school in Tanzania.
Funded by the Government of Canada’s Development Innovation Fund, Grand Challenges Canada is dedicated to supporting bold ideas with big impact in global health. Grant applicants submit amateur videos outlining their projects and the public is able to view the videos and vote for their favourites. Grants are awarded by a peer review panel that takes into consideration the number of votes each project receives.
Reid’s video and the voting function are available on the Grand Challenges website.
They are currently neck and neck for second place with a Toronto project, but enough votes by May 31st could see them come first overall.
“Pesticides and heavy metals affect us in Canada, but in Africa they have been lethal,” said Gregor Reid, Western Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and Chair of Probiotics at Lawson Health Research Institute. “For some children in Kenya, this could be the difference between life and chronic illness or death. If we received enough votes and this funding, we believe we can help people in Africa and here in Canada.”