Delivery of the 186th Inaugural Lecture series of the University of Benin,Benin City at the Akin Deko Auditorium Ugbowo Campus, on 20th April, 2017. Present at the event were the Vice- Chancellor of the university, Prof F.F.O Orumwense ,DVC Academic prof E.P iribhogbe, DVC Administration Prof. Ehirobo, the school Liberian Dr Evelyn Idiodi , Deans, Directors, Professors ,Emeritus Professors and top government functionaries.
Delivered by Professor Unu Lucy Airauhi , professor of
Parasitology, was the lecture titled: African Trypanosome: A Review of the Lethality and Control of an Ending Pathogen.
Her lecture focused on microbe hunting, host pathogen/interaction (microbial pathogenesis), diagnosis, epidemiology, clinical significance, genetic diversity, taxonomy of parasites, and infectious disease agents. She argued that her study promotes wellness as it evaluates risk factors predisposing to parasitic and infectious diseases based on the principles aimed at promoting health and preventing illness, through prevention of infection and disease. The lecture also focused on parasitic disease, where the molecular basis for the lethality of a protozoan parasitic pathogen and its control were elaborated.
The African trypanosome is the parasite that causes African trypanosomiasis. The disease can occur in humans and animals and, it is commonly known as ‘sleeping sickness’ and ‘nagana’ respectively. Except it is diagnosed and treated quickly, the disease is lethal. This means that it could eliminate the victim.
‘Sleeping sickness-reawakes ’ is the title of the article by Pierre Cattand which warns of the dangers of the disease in Africa in 1998. Pierre Cattand was the training Officer with the Trypanosomiasis and Leishmaniasis unit at the World Health Organization (WHO), Geneva. The lecturer told her audience that she was privileged to meet with him when she took some of his courses during the 2nd International Training Course on Trypanosomiasis in Lyon, France, which held in 2001.
Furthermore, she said that cyclical transmission of the disease occurs when a person or animal is bitten by Arthropod vector(tsetse fly). The components of the fly saliva prevent blood coagulation and promote blood vessel dilatation which allows the easy passage of the trypanosome into the mammalian blood vessel. An important first step in the initiation and establishment of infection in the mammalian host, according to her, is white cell entry by the pathogen. Inside the white cell, there is metabolic/morphological/structural changes required for the survival of the pathogen in the mammalian host.
In addition to cyclical transmission via the bite of tsetse fly, other methods include: mechanical transmission through other blood sucking fly, such as members of accidental infections which could occure in laboratories due to pricks from needles contaminated with the parasite. Another means of transmission between humans via bodily fluid exchange, is by sexual contact.
Mother to child infection has been documented as another means. The trypanosome can cross the placenta, warranting the need for the screening of neonates of trypanosomiasis infected mothers.
African trypanosomiasis (AT) develops into a wasting lethal disease for humans and animals , with signs of emaciation and mainly at the end stage. It is characterized by progressive weight loss, depletion of skeletal muscle mass, loss of adipose tissue, systemic inflammation and modulation of appetite.
Acording to the lecturer, behavioral risk factors reported in the studies have been useful in the development of control and intervention programs in the ASSF.
In order to prevent the rising prevalence of irreversible neurological disorders associated with the disease, there is need for diagnostic kits that should provide early and uncontroversial diagnosis for both stages of the disease. The kits should require minimum training to allow its use by all health workers in the area.
There is the need for the establishment of vector control measures in the ASSF with the full cooperation of the affected communities and the need for the reduction of health impact for people with sleeping sickness by providing affordable and accessible health care services.