A Nigerian professor of Virology, Oyewale Tomori, and eight other scientists have been enlisted in the Global Virome Project (GVP). The GVP, which is aimed to launch in 2018 will help identify the bulk of viral threats and provide timely data for public health interventions against future pandemics.
The other researchers include: Dennis Carroll, Peter Daszak, Nathan D. Wolfe, George F. Gao, Carlos M. Morel, Subhash Morzaria, Ariel Pablos-Méndez, and Jonna A. K. Mazet.
Tomori, who was inducted into the United States National Academy of Medicine last October, led the development of the Africa Regional Polio Laboratory Network, a vital part of the global polio eradication programme. His work established a paradigm for the development of similar laboratory networks for measles, yellow fever, influenza and other viral hemorrhagic fevers, including Ebola virus, in Africa.
The professor of Virology was born in Ilesa, Osun State, Nigeria on February 3, 1946. He received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria as well as a Doctorate degree, Ph.D in virology from the University of Ibadan, where he was appointed professor of virology in 1981, the same year he received the United States of America Department of Health and Human Services Public Health Service Certificate for contributions to Lassa Fever Research.
Tomori and his team of researchers in a paper published February 23 in the journal Science said the Human Genome Project in the 1980s catalyzed technological innovation that dramatically shortened the time and cost for its completion, and ushered in the era of personalized genomics and precision medicine.
They said the GVP would likely accelerate development of pathogen discovery technology, diagnostic tests, and science-based mitigation strategies, which may also provide unexpected benefits.
The researchers estimate that discovery of all viral threats and characterization of their risk for spillover, using currently available technologies and protocols, would be extremely costly at over $7 billion (N2.5 trillion).
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has described the Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria as the largest outbreak of Lassa fever ever reported.The WHO, yesterday, in a statement, said the situation has reached record highs with 317 laboratory confirmed cases, according to figures released by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) last week.
Although endemic to the West African nation, Lassa fever has never reached this case count in Nigeria before. The number of confirmed cases during the past two months exceeds the total number of confirmed cases reported in 2017.
WHO Representative to Nigeria, Dr. Wondimagegnehu Alemu, said: “The ability to rapidly detect cases of infection in the community and refer them early for treatment improves patients’ chances of survival and is critical to this response.”
The WHO said health facilities are particularly overstretched in the southern states of Edo, Ondo and Ebonyi and that it is working with health authorities, national reference hospitals and the Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA) to rapidly expand treatment centres and better equip them to provide patient care while reducing the risks to staff. Among those infected are 14 health workers, four of whom have died.