Yoruba Are Genetically Immune To Lassa Fever Virus - Prof. Christian

By 11:46 Mon, 08 Feb 2016 Comments

A university lecturer, Prof. Christian Happi, has claimed that Yoruba people, by the make-up of their genes, are immune to Lassa virus that causes Lassa fever. The researcher, who is Dean, College of Postgraduate Studies, Department of Biological Sciences, Redeemer’s University, Ede, Osun State, said research was ongoing on why this is so, adding that few cases of Lassa fever recorded among Yoruba people are “imported.”

Speaking on the new breakthrough on the rampaging Lassa fever, Happi, who is Director, World Funded African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases, ACEGID, while speaking in Ede, said Lassa fever virus originated from Nigeria about 1,060 years ago.

He further explained that the disease spread to other West African countries about 400 years ago, stressing that Yoruba have capacity to resist the virus more than any other ethnic group in country.

He added, “Using next generation sequencing approach, we have identified a signal of natural selection in human gene called LARGE in the Yoruba populations of the South-West of Nigeria that may be associated with protection to Lassa fever virus. We have hypothesised the potential mechanisms of protection and believe that this could be the key to the future Lassa fever vaccine.” Meanwhile, a 28-year-old lady has died of Lassa fever in Ogun State. The Ogun State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Babatunde Ipaye, said that the young lady was the first to have died of the disease in the state. Ipaye, who said this during a press conference held at Oke Mosan in Abeokuta on Thursday, said the victim had travelled to Ebonyi for a burial programme and returned to Ogun on January 15, and later started manifesting the symptoms of the viral disease.

Happi berated the Federal Government for what he described as its “lackadaisical attitude” towards using products of several researches by scholars to tackle myriads of challenges affecting the growth and development of the nation. Noting that despite the huge amount expended on discoveries on Ebola virus by the institution, the findings remained unexplored by government and relevant institutions. He also condemned the discriminatory policy of TETFUND, which only support researchers in public tertiary institutions, even when private universities have maintained lead in research findings across the globe over the years. He stressed that, if adequately funded, private universities are capable of living beyond expectations of Nigerians in the area of research work.

On new research findings, Prof. Happi said it has been discovered that Ribavirin that is currently used to treat Lassa fever was not designed for the disease and as such, would only be effective when given in the early phase of the infection. He posited that with the discovery, ACEGID took advantage of its current knowledge of genomics technology to have better insight into the virus genome and eventually, it has been able to identify potential drug target. “Using next generation sequencing, we successfully sequenced hundreds of Lassa fever viruses, thereby generating the largest catalogue of Lassa fever virus sequenced in the world, which in turn resulted to the identification of new epitopes in the virus,” Happi concluded.



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