FG Commissions Researchers to Assess Efficacy of Treating COVID-19 with Ivermectin

•Lecturers can’t enforce social distancing in schools, ASUU insists

Deji Elumoye

The federal government has commissioned some Nigerian scientists and scholars to investigate the efficacy of using Ivermectin drug in the treatment of COVID-19 infections.

This is coming as the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has insisted that it cannot guarantee social distancing in crowded classes and congested hostels.

The research team, which is composed of Nigerian scholars at home and abroad, has also submitted a report on the usefulness of the drug to the World Health Organisation (WHO), which has appointed a peer review expert from the United Kingdom.

Speaking while being briefed on the report by a team of scientists led by the Principal Investigator, Prof. Femi Babalola and the Chief Medical Director of LUTH, Prof. Chris Bode, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, expressed excitement that Nigeria and Nigerians “are at the cutting edge of scientific research into the COVID-19 treatment.”

He said: “We have an opportunity here and I am so fascinated to hear this drug has been used in the treatment of River Blindness in this country.”

While commending the efforts of the team, Osinbajo added that with the report, Nigeria is at an advantage both in knowledge and availability of the drug, especially since Ivermectin has been found useful not only in the treatment of COVID-19, but also as a prophylactic medication.

He stated that the federal government will explore further ways to support the research while also advancing the effective funding of scientific research in the country.

Earlier in their presentation, Babalola and Bode had commended the presidency for encouraging the research and thanked the vice president for his personal role and support.

The report is titled, “A randomised controlled trial for the repurposing of Ivermectin in the management of COVID-19,” and the research, carried out at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), was undertaken following the report of a 5,000-fold reduction in viral load by Australian workers with in-vitro use of Ivermectin on COVID-19 in culture.

The PI has worked extensively with Ivermectin on the Onchocerciasis-River Blindness control programme, through which many Nigerians have used Ivermectin.

The study revealed that the mechanism of action of Ivermectin, include “Inhibiting viral entry into cells nucleus; and “direct suppression of viral RNA load of SARS CoV 2,” among others.

Ivermectin is orally absorbed with higher absorption as a solution better than tablets, and “The Mean Residence Time” (MRT) is 3.4 days. This informs the suggested frequency of dosing, i.e. twice a week.”

Members of the group named IVERCOVID Research Group apart from Babalola and Bode are the Chairman of the Medical Advisory Council at LUTH, Prof. Lanre Adeyemo; a US-based Clinical Pharmacologist, Prof. Adesuyi Ajayi; two project virologists: Prof. S.A Omilabu and Dr. Olumuyiwa Salu; and the Project Coordinator, Dr. Felix Alakaloko.

Lecturers can’t enforce social distancing in schools, ASUU insists.
Meanwhile, ASUU has said it cannot guarantee social distancing in crowded classes and congested hostels.

The union also said the government is yet to put safety measures in place at learning centres in the wake of the second wave of the pandemic.

Speaking on a live TV programme yesterday, ASUU’s National President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, said the safety of university lecturers and students is a priority.

He stated that the union is worried that university professors are dying of COVID-19.

“We have not seen government and university authorities taking concrete steps to access the level of safety for our members and for our students.
“Inasmuch as we are ready to go back, we are ready to put in extra efforts but it appears that government is not doing enough to address the two emergencies that we have – the emergency in the health sector as well as the emergency in the educational sector.

“Take for instance, how can we ensure or assure social distancing in crowded classes and congested hostels? Our hostels, are they fumigated? The classrooms, what flexible arrangements should be in place? I’m not sure universities can cope,” he added.

In line with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 directive that schools to resume on January 18, 2021, the National Universities Commission (NUC) has asked universities to comply with the directive.

However, the ASUU president said the NUC and the government are yet to enforce all guidelines in the universities.

Ogunyemi added that lecturers are working on an alternative mode of learning, noting that some lecturers will blend virtual and physical classes to avoid overcrowding and maintain social distancing at universities.

“But the universities don’t have functional ICT (Information Communications Technology) infrastructure and you need some huge funds to do this,” he stated.

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