Expert calls for integrated control of tropical diseases

A Professor of Parasitology, Chiedu Mafiana, has called for the use of mass drug administration for the control of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in the country.

Mafiana made the call in Abuja on Thursday at the 23rd inaugural lecture of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) with the theme: “Audacity of parasites and the imprudence of man.”

He said most of the tropical diseases were caused by parasites or organisms which depended on human beings for their survival such as ticks, tapeworms, fleas and lice.

“Integrated control should be enhanced and reinforced through the delivery of a rapid-impact package of drugs (albendazole or mebendazole, praziquantel, ivermectin ?? diethylcarbamazine, and azithromycin),” he said.

Mafiana, who is the Dean, Post Graduate (PG) Schools at NOUN, also advocated increased funding support from non-governmental development organisations to fight the diseases.

He noted that an estimated 10.2 million tablets of anthelmintic drugs were needed to take care of the tropical diseases caused by Soil Transmitted Helminthiasis (STH) and transmitted to human beings.

“Preventive chemotherapy can also be used, while the drugs can be quickly deployed by community-based distributors with rapid reductions in disabilities, improvement in well-being, and, in some cases, interruption of disease transmission.

“This package includes a combination of four of six drugs.

“I dealt with societal perceptions about health issues in malaria, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis and STH.

“A comprehensive policy framework should be put in place to provide preventive chemotherapy packages and to develop, test, and distribute a new generation of tools to control these diseases.

“This framework is an important model in disease control and poverty reduction,” Mafiana said.

He added that constant education of the at-risk population on all environmental factors could reduce the risk of the disease.

“Also, eliminating areas of standing water, where mosquitoes breed, will reduce the risk of mosquito-borne diseases and sleeping under a treated bed net will reduce the risk of diseases carried by flies that circulate at night.

“Travellers to areas where insect-borne NTDs are widespread should ensure to wear protective clothing, use insect repellent, and sleep under a treated bed net.

“There must be encouragement for a continuous assessment of knowledge gaps in the bionomics and epidemiology of disease-agents,” he added.

Mafiana called for the empowerment of NOUN Faculty of Health Sciences to establish consortia involving other disciplines in the university, for holistic health research in any of the NTDs in communities around the catchment areas of the university.

“We as academics and policy-makers must not by our actions or inactions become imprudent in dealing with these audacious parasites and predators in our society,” he said.

The Vice-Chancellor of NOUN, Prof. Olufemi Peters, commended Mafiana for his research, saying that finance was key to solving societal health issues.

Peters assured that NOUN would continuously be in the forefront of finding solutions to societal challenges through research.

Source: News Agency of Nigeria