A virologist Dr. Ishaku Akyala has urged the Nigerian government to look inwards in its search for solutions to the problems posed by the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Dr. Akyala who is also a Medical Laboratory Scientist and lecturer with the Nasarawa State University Keffi (NSUK), said this while speaking at the special Channels TV COVID-19 programme Monday (6th April 2020) evening.
Responding to questions from the presenter on the efficacy of rapid test kits that were donated by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, and the scepticism with which Nigerians greeted the gesture, Dr. Akyala said a lot of quality control and quality assessment needs to be carried out on the kits to ascertain the level of sensitivity and specificity of the rapid diagnostic kits.
Speaking further, Dr Ishaku Akyala said: “It is not rocket science for us to develop rapid diagnostic kits. I want to commend the Nigerian government and the NCDC for pushing in this fight against COVID-19. But I think it is time for us to look inwards to be able to develop our local content.
“Developing a rapid diagnostic kit is not rocket science. Actually, we have a lot of human resources. We have a lot of virologists and medical laboratory scientists that can develop the rapid test kits. This is quite key.
“And I am quite happy that we have been having positive samples. So it is just for us to harvest certain antigens and antibodies from these blood samples and come up with our own domestic rapid diagnostic kits. Time has come for us to be able to look inward, to tap from the expertise of our human resources back home to be able to come up with a very valid rapid diagnostic kit, that should be able to have a very high sensitivity…”
Dr Ishaku Akyala also gave his opinion on the controversy ignited by two French doctors who suggested that some clinical trials of vaccines should be first conducted in Africa.
He said: “I want to believe that they have tendered an apology. But it also behoves on us as a continent to begin to look inward.
“Actually, their suggestion of doing clinical trial is not for a new product. It is the BCG that is mostly used for tuberculosis which is not being used in Europe. It is mostly used over here. But I think they have tendered their apology. Africa is not a testing ground for most of these products.
“It also brings to… for us to standardize our products. That for every product that will go through a clinical trial, it has to be evaluated.
“It is a kind of multi-disciplinary approach to the clinical trial because a lot of people are involved in it. I want to thank Professor Adebayor for coming up with a multi-disciplinary approach in the UNILAG Consult. Likewise in the clinical trial, it is a multi-disciplinary approach. You have a lot of pharmacists that are involved. You have a lot of public health clinicians. You have epidemiologists, you have people that look at the side effects. You even have health economists that look at the economic components of this clinical trial.”
Dr Akyala said such localized efforts will greatly help Nigeria and the continent at large, in the battle against the COVID-19.