Dr Naftaly Githaka leads ILRI’s research on ticks and tick-borne diseases of animals and emerging tick-borne zoonoses. He also manages ILRI tick unit, an integrated centre for arthropod vector research that includes facilities for molecular biology, cell cutlure, ELISA, entomology and animal pens, and Africa’s largest collection of lab tick colonies.
Naftaly’s research includes improving live vaccines for East Coast fever, Africa’s most devastating tick-borne disease that kills more than 1 million calves annually. Naftaly’s group is also focusing on the emerging problem of the invasive cattle tick Rhipicephalus microplus. This tick species is notorious for acaricide resistance which enable it to rapidly displace native species. This tick transmits bovine Babesiois (red water), which is the most important vector-borne disease of livestock globally. The research at ILRI is looking at mapping the spread of Rhipicephalus microplus in Kenya, anti-vector vaccines, acaricide resistance surveillance and understanding the mechanisms driving the adaption of this pest that threatens entire livestock production.
Dr Githaka is also investigating the mechanisms of transmission of Nairobi Sheep Disease Virus (NDSV), a zoonotic tick-borne virus that is highly lethal in small ruminants and mildly virulent in humans. NDSV belongs to the same family with Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) virus, that is highly pathogenic in humans.
Dr Githaka is supervising PhD and MSc students and is an Adjunct Senior Lecturer with the Pan African University Institute for Basic Sciences Technology and Innovation (PAUSTI) of the African Union. His public engagement with science roles including creating awareness among livestock farmers to adopt new technologies for vector control, and advising the Kenyan State Ministry of Livestock on the potential of anti-tick vaccines as part of intergrated tick control strattegy.
Dr Githaka holds a PhD (2013) from the Graduate School of Veterinary Medicine of Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan, a Masters degree in zoology from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (2008) and a Bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and chemistry from the University of Nairobi (2002).