Trypanosomiasis no longer a public health problem in Nigeria – Official
Dr Augustine Igweh, the Director-General, Nigerian Institute for Trypanosomiasis Research (NITR) Kaduna, says Trypanosomiasis is no longer a public health problem in Nigeria due to surveillance activities and advanced technology.
Trypanosomiasis is a sleeping sickness in humans and animals. It is transmitted by an insect called tsetse fly.
Igweh said this in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the sidelines of the 35th International Scientific Council for Trypanosomiasis Research and Control (ISCTRC) conference in Abuja.
The theme of the five-day conference is “Impact of African Trypanosomiasis on Human and Animal Health, Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development in the face of Challenges to Sustainable Investment in Animal African Trypanosomiasis (AAT) Control and Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT) Elimination.“
The director-general said Nigeria was using aircraft to spray tsetse flies before to suppress them before the introduction of advanced technology known as sterile insect technique.
He explained that “in the past, so many parts of the country were affected by this disease but due to surveillance activities and technology; we have been able to suppress the disease.
“To sustain this feat, the Federal Government has approved the construction of a modern tsetse mass-rearing facility at Vom, Plateau to eradicate the disease.
“This facility is to generate millions of sterile male tsetse flies for field releases for the mop-up population of tsetse flies that might persist after suppression to achieve eradication,’’ he said.
According to him, what the sterile insect technique technology means is that male tsetse flies can be sterilised and be released in the field.
“When released, the male sterilised tsetse flies will then meet with female tsetses to produce non-tsetse flies and by so doing, reduce the population of tsetse flies.
“ We have tested this in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in an area in Nasarawa State and reduced tsetse in the area.’’
The director-general said Nigeria had also collaborated with other African countries to eliminate the disease “because after tackling the disease within the country, the flies could travel
from neighbouring countries to Nigeria.
“That is why we are joining other African countries to fight the disease.”
Meanwhile, in a paper co-authored by Igweh on “the Last Mile in Achieving Elimination of Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT) in Nigeria’’ presented at the conference,
he said the disease was spread by tsetse flies infected with “Trypanosomabruceigambiense.’’
Igweh said that prior to the establishment of the West African Institute of Trypanosomiasis Research (WAITR) in 1947, the prevalence of HAT was worrying.
He said the prevalence of HAT along the rivers basins of eight states in the north was alarming, put at 30 per cent.
“Inhabitants of these areas abandon their communities because of the devastating scourge.
“Active surveys treatment and vector control over decades through its outstations resulted in a drastic decline in the prevalence of HAT,’’ the director-general said.
Igweh said WAITR became Nigeria Institute for Trypanosomiasis Research in 1960; by 1988, active surveys stopped because of reduced funding which led to the closure of all outstations except Gboko in Benue.
He, however, said that from 2015 to 2017, the prevalence of the disease dropped to zero, adding that important strategies should be put in place to strengthen the health system in the country.