News Column

Ebola - Nigerian Virologist Meets American Experts, World Bank

August 6, 2014

Onche Odeh

Renown Nigerian virologist, Professor Oyewale Tomori, is currently in the United State where has met with experts from the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the World Bank on how to resolve the Ebola outbreak that is currently ravaging countries in West Africa.

Tomori, who is President, Nigerian Academy of Science (NAS), confirmed this in an email to Daily Independent from the US on Tuesday, saying the meeting is an aside, as he was there to meet other academies of science from Africa and the US Academy of Science.

He said the meetings in US would provide a rich base for the Nigerian Academy of Science to intervene to offer advice that could help quell the outbreak that has killed close to 900 people in West Africa within the last three months.

In the email to Daily Independent, he said, "I had meetings today (Tuesday) with representatives of US government and some African leaders, then moved on to another meeting on Ebola with CDC, USAID, World Bank and some private organisations.

"I am working with the Ebola team in Nigeria and plan to get the Academy to be involved," he said.

Although the virus had only been confirmed in two cases in Nigeria (an American of Liberian descent and one of the doctors that treated him), Nigerian researchers have jumped at the opportunity to study more on the virus and its kinds.

This was taken to a higher dimension by the government of Nigeria last week, with the inauguration of a six-man 'Working Group' to come out with the best antidote to the deadly virus.

The committee was constituted after former Chairman of Nigeria'sIndependent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and professor of Pharmacognosy, Maurice Iwu, declared that Bitter Kola could just be the antidote against the virus.

The committee to be co-chaired by the Director-General of the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), Abuja, Prof. Karniyus Gamanie, and Director-General of Nigerian Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), Professor Innocent Ujah, is to follow-up on researches that have been done in that regards by verifying claims relating to the treatment of the disease, as well as collate and analyse other research findings related to the disease and at the long run, advise the government on how to combat the disease.

Meanwhile, newly appointed Vice Chancellor of University of Abuja, Michael Adikwu, who is also a professor of Phramaceutics, has said Ebola is not new.

According to Adikwu, what might be new about the virus is that the current strain may have become difficult to curtail, saying the solution lies in the laboratories and hands of scientists.

In a response to Daily Independent's query, Adikwu said, "I remember hearing about Ebola virus far back in 1976 or so as a primary school pupil. It has always been curtailed. It is just that the current strain of the virus is difficult to curtail."

Explaining further, he said, "Like most viral infections, they are intracellular and as such difficult to eliminate using common antiviral agents. The best option is still to look for a way of developing a vaccine against the virus."

The NLNG science prize winner also disclosed that many viral infections are self-limiting, in which case if they do not kill an infected person, they wane off naturally, a situation that also applies to Ebola.

He said, "While, developing drugs against the viral particles should not be ruled out, the easier way of controlling such epidemics is to seek for vaccine against the virus."

Similarly, Head of Department of Veterinary Medicine, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Abia State, Prof. Maduike Ezeibe, has said there are many perspectives that could be explored to resolve the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria and other countries.

In a phone interview with Daily Independent from his Umudike base, Ezeibe said, "Nigerians need not fear. What we need is a collaboration with laboratories researching on Ebola Virus."

Ezeibe also said a research he did on the synthetic Aluminum-magnesium silicate (AMS) could provide a basic template for treating Ebola effectively.

He said, "The synthetic Aluminum-Magnesium Silicate (AMS) we invented in Nigeria works against viruses by physically binding to viruses by electrostatic attraction. So for as long as Ebola virus has electrical charges like other viruses our AMS will cure Ebola disease."

He said the AMS cured Newcastle disease and Gumboro disease in chickens and Canine parvovirus disease in dogs, adding, "In ongoing clinical trials on HIV\AIDS it has recorded a cure. The patient had his RNA count reduced from 1000 copies/ml to 40copies/ml after 2months treatment and once RNA is less than 50 copies/ml a person is HIV negative."

Meanwhile the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has said it will be deploying a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to West Africa to coordinate the U.S. Government's response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The agency announced on Tuesday that the team will comprise staff from the Agency's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, who will be overseeing critical areas of the response, including planning, operations, logistics in coordination with other federal agencies, including the U.S. Departments of Defense and Health and Human Services.

It also announced an additional $5 million in assistance to help ramp up the international community's Ebola response efforts.

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Source: AllAfrica

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