Lagos – With Nigeria contributing 20 million to the global 300 million people affected by fungal infections, scientists have urged the Federal Government to establish Mycology Laboratories in the country.
Making the call were researchers from the fields of Mycology, Parasitology, Haematology, Microbiology, others, who stressed that it would forestall fungal epidemic.
They said, it is unacceptable for a country like Nigeria, the most populous African country not to have Mycology Laboratories.
The practitioners made this and other submissions at the Cancer Research Centre, of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) at the first Annual International Conference of the Medical Mycology Society of Nigeria (MMSN).
Commenting, Dr. Rita Oladele, a microbiologist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), the situation in Nigeria is really appalling, where there is no single reference laboratory for fungal infections, saying it is not a good one for the country and its citizens.
“The most depressing for me in Nigeria is that in the whole country, there is no single reference laboratory, whereas in the laboratory, a lot can be done such as training, surveillance, monitoring of disease outbreak, and collection of data, but all these are elusive in the absence of a reference laboratory”, she stated.
Oladele however explained what could be responsible for the absence of the reference laboratory in the country, saying it could be that there is no sufficient enlightenment for those in authority on the importance of a reference laboratory in the country. Speaking on the topic: “Challenges in management of invasive fungal infections in developing countries”, Professor Arunaloke Chakrabarti, the President, International Society for Human and Animal Mycology, noted that although fungi are part of human lives, as they are eaten as foods, as well as play major roles in drug development procedures, but the same fungi are becoming a huge pain for humans.
Chakrabarti, further expressed concerns over the management of the condition in developing countries, affirmed the prevalence of fungal infections as published in the Journal Nature, to be affecting 300 million people around the world, while about 1.6 million people die from the infections annually.
The President said; “It shows that about 300 million people in the world suffers from this fungal infections, 1.6 million people die from fungal diseases, which are comparable with tuberculosis and malaria. We are bothered by the disease called tuberculosis and malaria but we are paying less attention to fungal infections. Fungi are getting so used to our body system, though; there are seven fungi that behave like bacteria in our body.
“In the world today, there is a big challenge, with fungi called Candida Auris, it has spread to about 32 countries and it is very resistant to antifungal drugs, very easily transmitted. In Africa, due to lack of Mycology Laboratories, practitioners are not able to diagnose it.
“It is only in South Africa and Kenya that this fungus has been diagnosed. I’m sure it is present in some African countries too, but since more than 50 per cent of general and commercial system of identification cannot pick this kind of fungi, then we need reference laboratory. But, Nigeria doesn’t have a reference laboratory for Mycology. We are saying the government, should do sometime urgently about this situation, and also partner with pharmaceutical companies for the availability and accessibility of antifungal drugs.”
Speaking on the consequences of fungal infections on HIV and cancer patients, Dr. Sani Aliyu, the Chairman, National Agency for the Control of AIDS, said due to the weak immune system of these set of people, they are more predisposed to fungal infections than others.
Aliyu therefore called for more enlightenment on the disease, saying fungal infections have become deadly in some countries, due to the invasive nature of the condition.
“Fungal infections are often caused by microscopic fungi that are common in the environment. Fungi live outdoors in soil and on plants as well as on many indoor surfaces and on human skin.
“There are instances where people become more predisposed to fungal infections, mostly people that are either on immuno-suppression, for example cancer therapy on people who are on intensive guidance. Thus, the essence of the conference is to discuss both the diagnostic and treatment aspects, in order to ensure patients’ safety.
Some of the presenters at the first MMSM International Conference are, Prof. Jean-Pierre Gangneux; from the Rennes Teaching Hospital and Rennes 1 University, France; Dr. J Claire Hoving, Wellcome Trust Intermediate Fellow in Public Health and Tropical Medicine, South Africa and Dr. Bright Ocansey, a medical laboratory scientist at New Hope Specialist Hospital Aflao, Ghana.
Also speaking were, Prof. Folashade Tolulope Ogunsola, deputy vice-chancellor Development Science at the University of Lagos; Richard Kwizera, a medical mycologist, College of Health Sciences, Makerere University, Uganda and Prof. Ahmed Hassan Fahal, University of Khartoum.
Others are; Dr. Mark Okolo, medical microbiologist from the University of Jos; Dr. Obianuju Ozoh, a pulmonologist at LUTH; Alex Jordan, from the Mycotic Disease branch of the United states; Dr. Iriagbonse Iyabo Osaigbovo, medical microbiologist at the University of Benin and Dr. Nicholas Irurhe, radiologist from the College of Medicine, University of Lagos
The rest are, Dr. Olusola Olabisi Ayanlowo, dermatologist at the Department of Medicine, University of Lagos; Dr. Olufunmilola Makanjuola, medical microbiologist and parasitologist, University of Ibadan; and Dr. Sani Aliyu, medical officer at State House Clinic, Imperial College, London.