As Iwu, US sign agreement on research

Fred Itua, Fred Ezeh, Abuja, Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan, Judex Okoro, Calabar, Sunday Ani

Following the outbreak of COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), said arrangement were on to spray every passenger coming into Nigeria through the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, from high-risk countries.

Director, FCT Public Health Department, Dr. Josephine Okechukwu, who disclosed this in Abuja, said there was also screening of passengers on arrival.

She revealed that it has opened two isolation centres at the National Hospital and the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada, to cater for suspected cases.

She stated that though there has not been any identified case of the virus in the nation’s capital, the administration was taking all necessary precautions.

Okechukwu disclosed that  there was also an ongoing training by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in Keffi, Nasarawa State, for health care workers that would manage the virus, in the event that there is an outbreak. She added that the Department trained more than 200 health workers in Abuja Municipal Area Council and Abaji area council on Lassa fever and Coronavirus, while sensitisation of residents was ongoing in all the six area councils of the FCT.

No new confirmed case, says FG

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has confirmed that, aside from the index case of an Italian businessman there was no new case as at Sunday, March 1, 2020.

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who addressed journalists in Abuja, said significant successes have been made in contact tracing from the index victim.

“Since the confirmed case last week, we have focused our efforts to containment, contact tracing, risk communication and management of the index case. As at March 1, 2020, no new confirmed case was recorded anywhere in Nigeria.

“About 13 or 14 tests have been done and no one was tested positive of coronavirus, except the Italian that was diagnosed last week. There were 156 passengers on board the flight that brought the index cases. Port Health officials have been of great support to Lagos and Ogun states government, particularly in contact tracing and other response cases.

“Currently, 19 contacts from the index cases have been identified in Lagos State, while 39 contacts have been identified in Ogun State. We are in touch with these contacts and they are under self-supervised isolation, and states have supported them with necessary needs.

“Plateau State government reported four (suspected) cases among Chinese nationals and none of the cases tested positive of Coronavirus. However, the state government has placed them under self-supervised isolation.”

The minister said multi-sectoral Emergency Operational Centres (EOCs)had been activated and were coordinated by the NCDC. Additionally, he said states had also activated EOCs.

Iwu, US sign agreement on research

United States health agency, Division of Microbiology and infectious Diseases (DMID), an arm of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAIDS), has signed a non-clinical evaluation agreement with Prof. Maurice Iwu’s Bioresources Institute of Nigeria for the development of medical response to the fast-spreading COVID-19.

Iwu disclosed the development to the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, during a presentation in Abuja. He said there was need for concrete action to prepare Nigeria and other countries of the world for future outbreaks of viral infections.

Dr. Barbara Mulach, a biologist and deputy director of the institute, signed the 12-page agreement on behalf of NAIDS, while Iwu, former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), signed for Bioresources Institute of Nigeria.

According to the agreement, the Bioresources Institute of Nigeria and the US agency would conduct further study on drugs already discovered and patented by Iwu for the treatment of the novel Coronavirus.

In an address titled “Coronavirus: The time to prepare for the next infection is now,” Iwu noted that during the antiviral bioassays in 2014/2015, it was discovered that the compounds exhibited significant antiviral activity against Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-Coronavirus).

“I want to formally brief you about our drug discovery project, which has led to the identification of potential treatment agent for Coronavirus infections. The lead compound is one of the most studied natural products in history with a citation score of 1,729 citations in PubMed; 1,725 citations in Scopus as accessed few days ago. Its pharmacokinetics profile and putative mechanism of action are established.

“We are considering possible dosage forms, including a combination product formulation of the three agents (Rhygyfyn) described in our patents as broad spectrum antiviral drug, identified and developed here in Nigeria. We are set to introduce the products but our only limitation is finance.”

He thus solicited funding to enable further research and development of cure for viral infections that might cause havoc in the future.

Iwu also disclosed that one of the compounds in the discovery proved very effective against SARS coronavirus, stating further that “we have concluded arrangements with the Antiviral Program of the US National Institute of Health to subject the compound to bioassay against the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19).”

Dr. Onu, commended Prof. Iwu for his discovery and described it as a welcome development. He added that no single Nigerian life should be lost to Covid 19, and praised the efforts of the Federal Ministry of Health since the outbreak of the first case of the Covid 19 in Nigeria.

He added that Nigerians were more assured and encouraged with the fast recovery of the index patient.

Onu, however, told Prof. Iwu that his Ministry has set up a committee under the aegis of the Nigerian Academy of Science, to look into cases of vaccine or cure for the dreaded Covid 19 and Lassa fever.

He appealed Prof. Iwu to make his research findings available to the Committee for verification.

Minister of state for Health, Sen. Adeleke Mamora thanked Prof. Iwu for coming up with his discovery, insisting that Nigeria can only develop through the effort of its citizens and the best time for such is now and Nigeria must be well prepared.

He emphasized the need for Nigeria to prepare for endemic diseases in times of normalcy and urged Nigerians to guard against indiscriminate use of drugs to fight prevalent diseases.

Iwu had in the course of execution of a Federal Government mandate to his Bioresources Institute of Nigeria in 2014, for solutions to Ebola virus disease, discovered and developed drugs for the management and treatment of a broad range of viruses, including SARs, MERS and Coronavirus.

The discovery also led to the issuance of a certificate of patent to Iwu from the registrar of patents and designs of the Federal Republic, which in 2015 approved three patents for Iwu for the discovery of a drug that could be used in treating Ebola and Coronavirus.

Lagos Assembly tasks Sanwo-Olu on sensitisation

The Lagos House of Assembly has urged Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to ensure adequate sensitisation of residents on the dreaded Coronavirus.

The matter was raised under “Matters of Urgent Public Importance” by Mr. Akeem Shokunle (Oshodi/Isolo I) during plenary and it was seconded by Mr. Lukman Olumo (Ajeromi/Ifelodun I).

Shokunle, who chairs the House Committee on Health, said it was important that the governor ensured adequate sensitisation of the people on the virus.

He said the state government should also implement the law passed by the 8th Assembly on the Cancer and Diseases Control Institute.

Speaker Mudashiru Obasa said the state government should reach out to many organisations, including local government authorities.

The Speaker also commended the governor for his swift efforts on the incident.

UCH trains 200 staff to curtail spread

Chief medical director (CMD) of the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, Oyo State, Prof. Jesse Otegbayo, has said the management of the teaching hospital has begun training for at least 200 staff on best methods to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, which was first reported in Wuhan, China, on December 31, 2019.

He disclosed this during activities marking his one year in office as CMD at UCH, assuring members of the public that the teaching hospital had been put on red alert against the Coronavirus.

“We have two standing committees on the virus, we have the UCH Emergency Response Committee and an Infection Control Committee. These committees have been on beat since we heard about this outbreak. In fact, they have been very busy because we had a suspected case (of Coronavirus) on admission. We have an isolation ward as you enter through the main gate of UCH to the right.

“Also, we have generated so much awareness. As you enter the hospital, you will see some posters as well as within the hospital. The committees have been going round to enlighten people.”

C’River begins awareness campaign

Cross River State government has commenced Coronavirus awareness  at the Ranch Resort in Obudu, as part of measures to educte residents and forestall panic. Commencing the campaign at the resort in Obanliku LGA yesterday, Senior Special Adviser to the Governor on Ranch, Bobby Ekpenyong, said the state was a tourism destination and the ranch was a hot spot for tourists, thus the need to set up an emergency unit at the gate.

Ekpenyong said the campaign commenced by first testing the staff, who were the first point of contact for tourists, and then taking it up to the historic community.

“We have opened a testing unit at the gate of the resort where everybody coming in must be first examined. We have deployed medical personnel  and have provided nose masks,  hand sanitisers and thermometer to gauge body temperature at all locations within the ranch.”

TheChief Nursing Officer of Ranch Medicall Centre, Mr Christopher Alinia,  expressed delight that the state has put in place precautionary measures in place to enable them quickly detect any outbreak.

Ogun launches mobile app for health workers

The Ogun Government has launched a mobile application to enhance information dissemination among health workers in the state in order to contain the coronavirus.

Commissioner for Health, Dr Tomi Coker, disclosed this at a meeting with the Emergency Operation Committee (EOC) on Monday in Abeokuta.

According to her, the Android application christened, “CommCare,” will serve as a base for information about case definition.

Coker added that the mobile device would help health workers in primary health centres to easily carry out risk assessment before it escalates to the local government level.

She said that the application had been rolled out at Ewekoro Local Government Area to enhance the activities of health workers.

The commissioner added that the application would  be deployed for use in Ado-Odo-Ota and Ifo Local Government Areas given the volume of industrial activities in the areas.

“Since the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed, we have launched the mobile application to help disseminate information to local government and primary health centres. It is a decision tree mobile application for health workers.”


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