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UNILAG researchers alert to health, economic implications of allergens


UNILAG, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academics and Research), Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe

UNILAG, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academics and Research), Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe

• Blame rise in conjunctivitis, allergic reactions on pollen grains

As Harmattan hits most towns and villages in the country, a team of researchers at the University of Lagos (UniLag) has alerted to the health implications of allergens from pollen grains, which include Allergic Rhinitis (AR), conjunctivitis (Apollo/pink eye), sinusitis and asthma.

Allergen is a substance that causes an allergic reaction. The team led by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academics and Research), Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, said that seasonal changes have been reported to introduce dust and other particles into the atmosphere, some of which are pollen grains posing allergic reactions in humans.

The research work, which was sponsored by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) is tagged TETFund Allergy Project.

The team in a communiqué released after a workshop in Lagos noted reports from medical experts and affected individuals, relating allergic reactions to the incidence of weather conditions and airborne pollen distribution.

Members on the project team include: Dr. Olusola Adekanmbi (Principal Investigator), Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe (Research Partner), Dr. Adesina Adeiga (Research Partner), Dr. Temitope Onuminya (Research Partner), Dr. Nneka Ezike (Research Partner), Mr. Olugbenga Alebiosu (Ph.D candidate), Mr. Linus Ajikah (Research Assistant) and Mrs. Hannah John (Master’s student).

Dr. Obianuju B. Ozoh of the Department Internal Medicine and Pulmonology College of Medicine University of Lagos in her presentation titled: “ Pollen Allergy and Respiratory Diseases” stated that respiratory organs are a united airway and this accounts for a situation whereby an individual who is at risk of AR may also be at risk of conjunctivitis, sinusitis and asthma. She said that these diseases may not be presented at the same time in the body of an affected individual but they may all occur at different periods. She added other airborne pollutants especially the gaseous substances in the air also induce that allergy.

According to Ozoh, it is expedient to identify those plants producing airborne pollen allergens in the environment for proper diagnosis and treatment of allergy sufferers. Ozoh emphasized the need to create an awareness concerning the prevalence of pollen allergy in Nigeria, as many people are yet to acquaint themselves with this incidence of these allergy conditions.

Dr. A.O. Onakoya of the Department of Ophthalmology, College of Medicine, University of Lagos in her presentation titled “Allergic Conjunctivitis: A Sequel of Environmental Allergens” said allergic conjunctivitis is caused by environmental influences such as pollens, dust, pollutants and other airborne particles on predisposed genetic background. She informed the participants that eyes are constantly exposed to environmental allergens and listed the different types of allergic conjunctivitis; simple allergic conjunctivitis (Hay fever conjunctivitis) which is most likely to be caused by pollen; others are sight-threatening and include Vernal kerato-conjunctivitis, Atopic kerato-conjunctivitis and Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis. Onakoya stated that 20 to 30 per cent of the world population suffers from simple allergic conjunctivitis.

Prof. M.A. Sowunmi of the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Ibadan, Oyo State, in her presentation titled “Role of Pollen in Health Care Delivery and Socio-economic Development” said aeropalynology, melissopalynology and pharmaceutical palynology are areas of important socio-economic concern. She stated that some aeropalynological studies have been carried out in Nigeria but with no information on allergenic specificity of identified airborne pollen grains.

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