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Coronavirus diary

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Microparasites are tiny organisms—viruses, bacteria, or multi-celled creatures as the case may be—that find a source of food in human tissues suitable for sustaining their own vital processes. Some microparasites provoke acute disease and either kill their host after only a brief period of time, or provoke immunity reactions inside his body that kill them off instead—William H. McNeill

Last week, I wrote “Judgment day”, what might be taken as preface to this diary whose objective is to contribute to the solution to the present problem. This installment deals with presentation and analysis of homegrown solutions. Globally there is a race to find cure for Covid-19. No one has monopoly of knowledge and wisdom. And these times call for critical and creative thinking. Nigerians and Africans in general can provide solution to this global pandemic. It would be a crime to wait to be market for sales of cures. But even worse is to use Africans as guinea pigs for clinical trials of alien vaccines. French researchers, Professors Jean-Paul Mira, head of the intensive care unit at Cochin hospital, Paris, and Camille Locht, Research Director at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) are inclined in this direction thereby eliciting the retort of Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba and Demba Ba, great footballers and African patriots, to the effect that Africa would not be the playfield of the French. Countrymen and women, the point is that the race is on and the matrix is one of social Darwinism.

Hannah Thomasy writing in undark.org notes how covid-19 pandemic has engendered research as “researchers are scrambling to learn more about the virus. Their collective efforts have generated more than 1,900 papers, as doctors and scientists try to rapidly share new findings with each other and with the public…At stake are urgent unanswered questions about Covid-19: Can a recovered patient get the disease again? What techniques will provide faster and more accurate tests? How effective is social distancing at slowing the spread of the disease?” She further notes that the deluge of research has undermined peer review process characteristic of scientific inquiry and which value inheres in tracking “mistakes and unsound science”. To be sure, the Nigerian research community must necessarily enlist into this scramble to find cure and spare humanity of this ravaging pestilence.

Intervention, the analytical Nigerian online medium seems to be emphasising the same point when it poses the questions: “Is an African Contingency Plan on COVID-19 coming?” What happens to Africa should the image of a one-shot vaccine everyone carries doesn’t materialize quickly enough? Before you could hazard a guess, it goes on to state that, “In the context of very weak health infrastructure, the fear is that the pandemic will make mincemeat of the continent”.

It is equally forward looking and argues that “There could be a joker there, typical of how great challenges trigger magical responses.

Who knows what might be cooking in other African countries”. Nearer home, there are ongoing efforts of the Ministry of Science and Technology headed by a Chemical Engineer, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu who has announced the establishment of a committee under the auspices of the Nigerian Academy of Sciences to spear head the quest for curative vaccine for Covid-19. On his part, Professor Maurice Iwu, a pharmacognosy hints on the Bio-resources Institute of Nigeria (BION) collaboration with the Anti-viral programme of the US National Institute of Health to test the effectiveness of Nigerian plants for cure of Covid-19. The Provost of Luminar International College of Alternative Medicine, Enugu, Prof. Joseph Akpa is also in the race with claims of a cure for coronavirus pandemic. He claims to have already made energy health medicines superficially meant to boost the human immune system and others meant to directly attack the virus to ensure 100 per cent successful cure. And to force home his claim, he challenges health institutions to bring any patient. Insinuating the otherworldly origin of the virus such byproducts of astral travelling he notes that the planets have also their positive effects on the human beings here on earth.

The Ooni of Ife, Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi (Ojaja II) is probing the potency of nature to Covid-19 and has prescribed a cocktail of herbs to combat the coronavirus. Drawing on the intersection of the spiritual and objective, he notes that “A divine proclamation came out to the world last year June 6th 2019, during the World Ifa Festival – Otura Meji. We foretold about the impending rage of this invisible pandemic war, but few heard us.” Ifá is a system of divination majorly practiced by the Yoruba in Nigeria. His prescription includes: Ewe akoko, known in English as Boundary tree with the botanical name, Newbouldia laevis; dogoyaro known in English as Neem tree with botanical name Azadirachta indica; Alubosa known in English as Onion with the botanical name, Allium cepa; Ogirisako known in English as Forest anchomanes with the botanical, Anchomanes difformis; Aridan known in English as Aidan fruit with the botanical name, Tetrapleura tetraptera; Eeru or Erinje known in English as African pepper or Guinea pepper with the botanical name, Xylopia aethiopica; Ewuro known in English as Bitter leaf with the botanical name, Vernonia amygdalina; and Iyin ojo, known in English as Sulfur. Anxious for their validation through modern techniques, he challenges researchers both in Nigeria and the world to make these natural herbs into clinical medicine and extract the vaccines from them. He also hints on his work with an Alternative Medicine Expert pharmaceutical company for production and distribution of the herbs globally.

Wellvis Health, a health-tech startup, has also announced an app, COVID 19 Triage that can help Nigerians know their risk of infection. Lifebank arrives at the arena with a drive-through mobile testing center to accelerate testing efforts in the country. The Department of Computer Science, Lagos State University swells the number with its mobile app named ‘LASU COVID-19 Test’ that would enable individuals self-test for COVID-19.

By no means a substitute for medical consultation, it requires an individual to answer some questions related to covid-19 symptoms without supplying any test sample.

Innoson Motors seems primed to help produce ventilators and other equipment at the say so of governing authorities just as Ford Motors and other companies are doing in the US and other countries hard hit by the virus. In a streak of patriotic thinking, Mr. Olusegun Mimiko, the former governor of Ondo State lends support to the quest for homegrown solution. With respect to what Innoson could do he notes that “Innoson Motors may face challenges trying to produce modern type mechanical ventilators because of sophisticated software and sophisticated electronic parts, something tells me clearly that it will produce any type of manual ventilators quickly”. Commitment to homegrown efforts can produce results but the worry is that the compradors and the reactionary elite in government circle may abort the search for home-made solutions. In the global quest to defeat the coronavirus, emphasis has been on a range of medical equipment to provide accurate test and establish the metrics and geography of contractions. Manufacture of ventilators to save those pummeled by the vicious virus and production of face mask is at the centre of efforts being made. The elixir, a healing vaccine, should be prioritised along with other prophylactics. Overseas pharmaceutical companies such as Roche are in the race.

Elsewhere Covid-19 essentiality is summarised thus, “Its gene expression is Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) and was not supposed to affect humans with Deoxyribonuclcleic Acid (DNA) profile. But it has the capacity to bifurcate the DNA into two RNAs and therefore able to multiply by destroying more of human cells. As an envelope virus, it is able to hedge off the human antibodies.” Clearly, the dynamics of Covid-19 presents a problem in its capacity to split the human DNA into its own genetic make-up, the RNA into two being the secret of its survival. It seems to me that research community should focus on inhibiting that capacity. Who knows? This could launch us on the path to victory over the almighty coronavirus.

Dr. Akhaine is Professor of Political Science, Department of Political Science, Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos.


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