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Kariuki Njenga: Kenyan Professor at the Prestigious Washington State University

Professor Kariuki Njenga is among a long list of Kenyans flying the country’s flag high abroad, after he a professor of infectious diseases at Washington State University (WSU), D.C, in 2021.

Dr. Njenga specialises in studying emerging zoonotic diseases and advises Africa on readiness for the illnesses while simultaneously working with PhD students at the University of Nairobi (UoN) and the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri).

He divides his time between WSU and UoN, leading research students on diseases in Africa. He is also part of the Kemri team that tackles diseases affecting Kenyans.

Dr. Kariuki Njenga - Director of the WSU Global Health Program – Kenya.
Dr. Kariuki Njenga – Director of the WSU Global Health Program – Kenya.

“My goal is to make WSU Global Health — Kenya, which represents the institution’s public-health mission in Kenya, the go-to place for cutting-edge research in emerging infectious diseases on the continent,” the professor stated.

“This will be achieved through training and mentorship so that long after this generation of researchers is gone, there will be others to take over. This is an especially important task here: East and Central Africa are where many of these infectious diseases originate.”

Background & Education

DR. Kariuki Njenga holds a Bachelor’s degree in Veterinary Medicine (BMV) and a Master of Science in the same from UoN.

He holds a PhD from the Pennsylvania State University, US. He later obtained 5 years of post-doctoral training at the Mayo Clinic and Foundation in Rochester, Minnesota, US.

Career

Dr. Kariuki Njenga is Professor at the Washington State University Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health, and the Country Director of the WSU Global Health Program – Kenya.

Dr. Kariuki Njenga - Director of the WSU Global Health Program – Kenya.
Dr. Kariuki Njenga – Director of the WSU Global Health Program – Kenya.

His research training is in virology and immunology, but he has gained extensive experience in conducting basic and field studies in infectious diseases over the past 16 years, resulting in publication of more than 170 peer-reviewed papers on the subject.

Between 2004-2011 (8 years), Dr. Kariki Njenga served as Laboratory Director of the CDC in Kenya, first to establish and equip the laboratories and later to lead diagnostic testing for outbreaks in the horn of Africa and East Africa (Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda) for disease such as Rift Valley fever, Avian influenza, Hepatitis E, Leptospirosis, and anthrax.

At CDC, he also worked with epidemiologists to establish a human population-based syndromic surveillance for acute febrile illness, jaundice, respiratory illness and diarrheal in among urban and rural populations.

Between 2011 and 2014, Dr. Kariuki Njenga served as head of the One Health Program at CDC-Kenya and the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI). He focused on establishing a multisectoral OH approach (setting up policies, institutions, and research) that enhanced Kenya’s efforts in preventing and controlling zoonotic diseases.

For One Health research, he focused on conducting systematic burden of disease studies on priority episodic and endemic zoonotic diseases in the East Africa region, and studies at the animal-human-environment interface in order to elucidate the mechanisms of animal-to-human transmission.

In addition, Dr. Kariuki Njenga was instrumental in developing a linked human-animal population based syndromic surveillance platform that investigated the nutritional, economic, and zoonotic interactions between rural sub-Saharan people and their livestock.

Dr. Kariuki Njenga - Director of the WSU Global Health Program – Kenya.
Dr. Kariuki Njenga – Director of the WSU Global Health Program – Kenya.