Scientist calls for research into epidemics
A Senior Lecturer of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Dr John Humphrey Amuasi, has urged scientists on the continent to conduct indigenous research to understand emerging infectious diseases and proffer solutions to contain them.
Citing the emergence of monkeypox on the continent, the Leader of the Global Health Research Group at the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research in Tropical Medicine (KCCR) said it was a shame that the vaccine for the disease, first identified on the continent in 1970, was unavailable to the continent.
He added that with the establishment of a new vaccine research infrastructure, scientists would take advantage of it to better investigate and find home-grown solutions to curtail future epidemics.
“There is a vaccine for monkeypox but we do not have it here, and it is a shame because we have always had the disease since the 1970s.
“So, this is why it is important that we conduct our own indigenous research, and now that we have a vaccine research infrastructure in place, hopefully we should do these things ourselves,” he said at the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Founder’s Week programme in Accra last Wednesday.
The lecture was dubbed: “The socio-economic and health impacts of COVID-19 and other emerging infectious diseases”.
Dr Amuasi’s lecture was on the sub-theme, “Surmountable or Not? Addressing the challenges of emerging (COVID-19) and re-emerging (monkeypox) infectious diseases”.
He said there was the need to interrogate why Africa recorded low fatalities from COVID-19 contrary to the projections by some global health experts.
He added that the blacks in Europe and North America suffered from the pandemic than the whites, hence the need to investigate the phenomenon.
“The answer could be in genomics, and investigating that across the continent may provide us with some answers, although it could be very interesting,” he added.
Moving forward, he said, countries on the continent must adopt an integrated health surveillance system.
“What this means is to have a surveillance system that addresses animal health and human health; analyse and interpret what the risk is and what the response should be,” he said.
Drawing some lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, a fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences and President Emeritus of FHI 360, Professor Peter Lamptey, said global coordination was key to containing the spread of pandemics at an early stage.
He further called for the establishment of surveillance systems in different parts of the population to identify and alert the authorities on time for the needed action.
“It is also more cost-efficient to put a lot of resources at the beginning of a pandemic than trying to stop a pandemic when it spreads to a lot of people.
“Additionally, we must continue to research to identify new pathogens before they migrate with humans,” he said.
Prof. Lamptey observed that HIV continued to spread for years because it was only seen as a “gay disease”, adding that the situation aided the spread of the infection because of the stigma attached to the virus.
He called on stakeholders to address myths and misconceptions during public health communication campaigns.