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New Lassa fever drug shows promise in clinical trials, says Tomori


Prof. Wale Tomori

Prof. Wale Tomori

NIMR’s team of experts brainstorm on best ways to tackle disease
Chairman of the Lassa Fever Control Committee, Prof. Wale Tomori has disclosed that recent studies being carried out at the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital (ISTH), Edo State has shown more effectiveness in a new drug for treatment of Lassa fever.

Speaking in Lagos during a symposium on the disease, he said, there are other drugs being tested at the moment but a combination of one of the new drugs with ribavirin, the existence drug may show more effectiveness.

According to him, the committee would be summiting a proposal which includes possible immunization for the disease in the near future to the government at the end of this month and hopefully push for them to support the “Lassa Fever Vaccine Trials in the country.”Though not made in Nigeria, we have candidate vaccines, which have not been tested yet, he added.

He pointed out that it has taken the committee a longer time to come up with recommendations because proposals have to be well scrutinized to avoid the incidence of any loopholes.

Tomori told journalist that one of the challenges confronting the tackling of the epidemic is poor disease surveillance in the country.This he explained; it is when a case is detect on time that actions can be taken, “but if you wait for weeks many more people would die, so behind it all is good surveillance, early detection good laboratories.”

Tomori who referred to the disease as a tragedy to Nigeria said, Nigerians do not care too much about their health solution, “I think there have to be a total change in attitude to diseases in this country, until we begin to realize it is a major disaster even if one person dies from a disease, we would never get out of the situation.”

Also speaking at the symposium was the Director General of Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Prof Innocent Ujah who lamented that the institution is not an emergency response body, but rather a research institute who looks into diseases before, during and after outbreaks.

However, Ujah describes it as unfortunate that NIMR is not yet actively involved in comprehensive Lassa fever research because the institute has just one medical virologist, and its laboratory has not been prepared and equipped for the disease and other haemorrhagic fevers research.

“We need equipment and a biosafety level four laboratory that would help us to make correct and timely diagnosis for effective management of cases of life viruses like Lassa, Ebola and other haemorrhagic disease fevers,” he noted.

Despite this, Ujah said the institute has been on surveillance in their laboratories using available researchers to see the extent and how to prevent it and also send formal proposals to government.”

The NIMR boss explained; “the objectives of this symposium is to further brainstorm on biology, epidemiology, case management, public health perspective, particularly focusing on the prevention of this endemic disease in Nigeria.”

Ujah noted that the institute seeks to understand the epidemiology of the virus for the disease surveillance as well as clinically study the virus among humans to determine its effects and impact.

He attributed lack of strategic plan to allocate funds for research on Lassa and other viral haemorrhagic fevers, surveillance and appropriate response to the disease’s long existence.

According to the President of the Boiresources Development Group, Prof. Maurice Iwu, the way forward is developing a system approach, which would enhance network and connect all dots “because nobody have all the answer and no one has all the solution.”

He stressed that Lassa fever is not an accident “because we have the intellect needed, the resources as well as knowledgeable scientists in the field, and enough time, only we didn’t plan.”

Iwu noted that the outcome of the symposium seeks to network all efforts people are making in this regard since the nation have the manpower, for that is how is done in other countries.

He reiterated that disease surveillance in the country is not being taken seriously, “we only react whenever there is a disease and it is dramatic.” He stated.

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