Expert Urges Transdisciplinary Research to Eradicate Neglected Tropical Diseases

Uchechukwu Nnaike

The Director at the Centre for Transdisciplinary Research in Malaria and NTDs, University of Lagos, Prof. Wellington Oyibo, says Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) will continue to persist in Nigeria and Africa if research is not directed to providing the much-needed evidence to support the interventions.

Oyibo, a consultant medical parasitologist, said this during the celebration of the 2023 NTDs Day at the university, themed ‘Act Now, Act Together and Invest in Neglected Tropical Diseases’.

He said the development was especially where there were threats of drug resistance, poor or inadequate diagnostic tools, poor case-management practices, and emerging virulence of the organisms. Others are increasing the spread and sometimes poor uptake of the interventions in affected communities, procurement, and supply management issues.

According to him, some diseases include Schistosomiasis (intestinal and urinary), Chagas disease, rabies, dengue and chikungunya, snake bite, trachoma, leprosy, roundworm yaws and others.

Oyibo called for a strong, resilient health system that would likely be key to teaching the citizens quality health services. He pointed out that the role of academic and research institutions was to bring to bear the role of transdisciplinary research in malaria and NTDs using knowledge to combat the NTDs, which is critical to the elimination.

He said because of UNILAG’s commitment to impacting and being involved in the activities that would drive and accelerate the attainment of the elimination of the target in the country, it has, through its Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Folasade Ogunsola, endorsed the ‘Kigali Declaration’.

“She is doing that based on the understanding that UNILAG has the capacity, interest, as well as taking up responsibilities to support NTDs control to elimination with knowledge through research. She is saying UNILAG will join and also deploy research innovation and other solution-targeted measures to be able to make a difference in the landscape of NTDs in Nigeria,” Oyibo said.

The don stated that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had identified about 21 of the diseases under review, adding that those that are yet to be noticed were specifically because they needed a temperate environment to thrive.

He said others existed but were not properly prescribed because full attention was not being focused on them.
He said it is only when they are seen that they could be reported on.
“For instance, in the case of chikungunya, it is a virus found in many countries in Africa and has been seen in a few more places. But how much of this chikungunya is known to be associated with the NTDs, we do not know,” Oyibo explained.
“And this is what research should be able to do. For the common NTD, we have the round worms that normally affects children and they are of various types.

“One of the things round worms do is that in most cases, the child will not be sick but it will interfer with the growth of the child. The child becomes stunted and then of course distort cognition. Learning capacity will be challenged.

“These worms are usually long lasting in their victims, staying for as long as five to 10 years, if there is no deworming.

“There is also the Schistosomiasis transmitted by a kind of snail. It is not the common snail that we find in some of our delicacies, but a particular type, small in size found in lakes and in some places where there are rivers.”

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