Nigeria records 35 per cent decline in malaria cases
• Scientists closer to sickle cell cure with gene therapy
• New test measures effect of alcohol on fetus
Nigeria has recorded a 35 per cent decline in malaria cases in five years with only 25 per cent of children under the age of five testing positive for the disease in 2015 compared to 40 per cent in 2010.
Good as the news is, however, it follows a dismal report by the World Health Organisation (WHO): “Since June 6, 2016, health clinics in displaced persons’ camps in Borno State have seen increasing numbers of measles cases. From early September until late October, 744 suspected cases of measles and two deaths were reported from WHO-established Early Warning and Response System (EWARS) reporting sites. The majority of these children had never been vaccinated against measles and most of them were aged less than five years.”
The results of the 2015 Nigeria Malaria Indicator Survey (NMIS) released during the week by the National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP), National Population Commission and the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) show a marked decrease in prevalence of the disease among children under five, and major improvements in prevention and treatment.
According to the survey, Nigeria accounts for 29 per cent of the global burden of malaria and has the highest number of cases. It found that nationwide malaria prevalence varies widely, ranging from 14 per cent in the South East to 37 per cent in the North West.
Explaining reason for the decline, the survey notes: “The decrease corresponds with expanded malaria prevention interventions. Ownership of insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs) has increased over eight-fold since 2008 when only eight per cent of households owned an ITN. Now, 69 per cent of households own at least one ITN.”
According to the WHO, “Disease surveillance data, backed by a survey done in the Custom House and Muna Garage displaced persons’ camps in Maiduguri shows that measles vaccine coverage is very low, so there is great risk of an outbreak of this highly infectious disease in the camps.”
The global health body, however, added: “The state Ministry of Health, with support from the WHO and other partners, aims to reach more than 75,000 children, aged six months to 15 years, in 18 IDP camps, including Muna Garage, Customs House and Fariya camps, where the campaigns has already commenced. By the end of November, it will be expanded to 15 additional camps in Maiduguri Municipal Council and Jere Local Government Area.”
The Director for Disease Control, Borno State Primary Health Care Development Agency, Babagana Abiso, regretted: “The conflict in Borno State has left millions of children with limited access to basic health care, and at risk from diseases like measles and polio that can spread rapidly.”
Scientists, meanwhile, say they are closer to a ‘cure’ for sickle cell anaemia. According to the WHO, Nigeria has the highest burden of sickle cell disease in the world.
The researchers, in a report published yesterday in Nature, said their study is proof of concept that the approach can repair sickle cell and other blood-borne genetic diseases.
They used Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) gene editing to repair a faulty strip of Deoxy Ribonucleic Acid (DNA).
They reported how, using the editing tool, they corrected gene in stem cells from diseased patients and showed they could make red blood cells capable of producing functioning haemoglobin. They also transplanted stem cells into mice and found them thriving in their bone marrow months later.
In another medical milestone, scientists have designed a blood test that can predict and measure the effect of alcohol in developing fetus.
Recent study by the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, Lagos, had shown that more pregnant women in the country were drinking, with attendant rise in birth defects such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD).
Experts from the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine, Texas A&M College of Medicine, U.S., and the Omni-Net Birth Defects Prevention Programme in Ukraine teamed up to design a solution to FASD, developing a test that could measure the extent of alcohol damage at an earlier stage. Their findings were published in PLOS One yesterday.FASD includes cognitive difficulties and behavioural issues like impaired attention, memory, and speech development.
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