Ebola: Nigeria equips more labs to diagnose virus, may deploy Japan’s experimental drug

Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu

Amidst fear of the Ebola Virus Disease, EVD, spreading in Nigeria, the Federal Government is increasing its capacity to curtail the spread of the virus, the health minister said Monday.

The Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, revealed Monday during the second emergency National Council on Health meeting on EVD outbreak in Nigeria, which held in Abuja, that the federal ministry of health has steadily been increasing the capacity to diagnose the EVD.

Mr. Chukwu said the virus can now be diagnosed at the following locations: NCDC Laboratory, Asokoro, Abuja; NCDC Laboratory at LUTH, Lagos; NCDC Laboratory at University College Hospital, Ibadan; Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital Irrua, Edo State; Virology Laboratory of Redeemers University, Ogun State; The Irrua-based mobile laboratory which has now been relocated from Enugu to Port Harcourt.

He stated that plans were at advanced stage to enable the following laboratories: NCDC Laboratory at Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano; NCDC Laboratory at UPTH, Port Harcourt, while the federal ministry of health plans to procure additional mobile laboratories to be based in the following locations: Abakaliki, Port Harcourt, Bauchi, Jos and Sokoto.

As part of the initiative, Mr. Chukwu disclosed that the federal ministry of health has met with representatives of some associations to sensitise them about the EVD and secure their collaboration in containing the spread of the virus.

Some of the associations include: National Association of Road Transport Owners; National Union of Road Transport Workers; Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria; Guild of Medical Directors
“We have also met with and briefed the Heads of Diplomatic Missions in Nigeria.

Mr. President convened and presided over a meeting with State Governors and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory Administration accompanied by their Commissioners for Health. The Minister of Health made a presentation to the meeting while the Country Representative of the WHO and the Project Director of NCDC respectively addressed the meeting. We have also planned other meetings with key stakeholders such as women groups including market women; Health Development Partners Group; Representatives of the hospitality industry and; Federal tertiary hospitals,” Mr. Onyebuchi said.

Trial drugs to be used
The Minister further revealed that Nigeria has indicated interest to participate in the clinical trials for the Ebola virus diseases vaccines adding that the country has also applied for experimental drugs such as the TKM-Ebola.

“The Treatment Research Group, TRG, which I had informed you about has been working hard to identify experimental drugs like Zmapp, and also make recommendations to government on further research on these drugs as well as vaccines for EVD treatment and prevention,” he said. “Following the TRG’s recommendation and in consultation with NAFDAC and NHREC, Nigeria has indicated interest to participate in the clinical trials for two candidate EVD vaccines and are considering a third that may be added to the list. We have also applied for experimental drugs such as TKM-Ebola.”

He disclosed that the TRG has submitted a detailed profile and brief on the oral antiviral agent which the Japanese Government has offered to make available to affected countries through the World Health Organization, WHO.

“We are now considering this profile and brief to enable us reach a final decision on making it available to our patients.

Our initial knowledge of the agent is that it has been shown to have strong antiviral activity against the influenza virus.

Following phases I and II human trials, it is now going through phase III clinical trials; it is shown to have strong antiviral property against Ebola Virus in vitro and in vivo. These and the fact that it is considered safe, having passed through phases I and II clinical trials, makes it a good candidate drug for use in emergency situations as the EVD.

“As is evident from this update, we are taking a holistic approach to the containment of EVD in Nigeria. It is however important, if we are to triumph in the end, to continue to work together both government and non-government stakeholders alike,” he added.

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