“No cure for COVID-19” is the general perception of the world. Thus, efforts are geared towards developing vaccination to prevent COVID-19 infection.
Globally, there is a cutthroat competition among the private and public led pharmaceutical industries on the development and trials of COVID-19 vaccines.
COVID-19 vaccine is a goldmine of exponential proportion and money-spinning venture awaiting the most successful pharmaceutical industry. An irony of life; adversities to many may be an opportunity to few.
It is within this context that the question posed last week resonates; What are the efforts of Nigerian medics in the treatment of COVID-19?
The first documented effort of the Nigerian Medics was that of Akin Abayomi and 23 others from College of Medicine, the University of Lagos and other relevant organizations. The effort was a clinical study of the first 32 COVID-19 patients in Nigeria. The study was conducted at Mainland Hospital Lagos between February 27 and April 6, 2020.
The study aimed at a sound understanding of the epidemiologic and clinical profile of cases as well as the case management approach. The result of the study indicates the mean age of the patients as 38.1 years with 66% male. At the point of admission, 75% of the patients were in moderately severe condition while 16% were asymptomatic.
The most common presenting symptoms were fever (59%) and dry cough (44%). Almost all (97%) the patients were treated with lopinavir-ritonavir with no recorded death. The median duration of hospital stay was 12 days. This report can be accessed via https://www.panafrican-med-journal.com/content/series/35/2/24/full/
The result of this study in addition to several works of literature and news items on the dreaded disease, COVID-19 provided the impetus to more intensive efforts by several medical experts from orthodox and unorthodox medicines.
On the unorthodox medicine, several herbalists claimed to have found a cure for COVID-19. This is understandable, even the WHO at one time reported that 80% of Africans regularly use herbal medicine, including Nigeria where plant-based treatments have been used for several generations to date.
Surprisingly, some of the well-trained experts also claimed to discover efficacious herbal treatment of COVID-19. One of such experts is a Professor of Biotechnology at the University of Jos, Mr Innocent Ogbonna who claimed to have created more potent herbal treatment from the artemisia plant.
“The Artemisia annua in Madagascar has an artemisinin content of 1.1%, ours has 4.8%. You can see the difference,” he told VOA (https://www.voanews.com/covid-19-pandemic/nigerian).
Still, on the possible use of herbal treatment for COVID-19, Chinyere B. C. I. and two others reported a study on the potential plants for treatment and management of COVID-19 in Nigeria.
Their study focused on some plants containing bioactive compounds that showed promising results against previous coronaviruses. The Potential plants identified are nine carefully selected herbs cultivated in Nigeria, which include Ginger (Zingiber officinale), onions (Allium cepa), Garlic (Allium sativum), Echinacea, Euphorbia hirta, Garcenea kola, Turmeric (Curcuma longa), Aleo vera and Olive (Olea europaea).
These plants were reported to contain compounds capable of inhibiting a variety of viruses. Thus, they were selected in the review and their bioactive compounds and drugs. Historically, local herbs are used in treating various respiratory ailments as medicines in the absence of vaccines and synthetic drugs.
The researchers’ hypothesis is based on inhibition of viral replication, which is seen as the possible mechanism for antiviral activity of most of the natural compounds. Thus, the result of their research showed that some natural compounds can interact with major viral proteins associated with virulence.
This indicates the potential of the nine selected plants as a valuable tool for possible inhibition, management and treatment of COVID-19. Still more need to be done on the combination, proportion, a number of plants to be mixed, part of a plant, efficacity, dose and duration among other experimentations.
They, however, recommended further research to investigate and validate the potential of the selected plants to be used as anti-SARS-CoV-2. However, the WHO continues to warn the general public against the risk of using unproven COVID-19 remedies as they can do more harm than good.
While the search for herbal remedies of COVID-19 continues in Nigeria alongside other African countries, there are some preventive tools such as hand sanitizers and masks produced in all nooks and crannies of Nigeria.
The most significant of the treatment tools produced by Nigerians are local ventilators. Many individuals and corporate organizations in Nigeria made ventilators for the treatment of COVID-19.
Universities like ABU Zaria, ATBU Bauchi and few others produced ventilators for the COVID-19 patients. Among the individuals, Dr Dayo Olakulehin’s ventilator has made a significant contribution with high potential for importation.
He invented a cheap, portable, easily deployable, easy to use and rechargeable battery-powered ventilator, according to a report by a national newspaper “The Guardian”. The ventilator costs around 100 times less than a conventional ventilator at an introductory price of US$300.
Conventional ventilators cost around $30,000 (about N10 million). Dr Olakulehin was trained at the College of Medicine University of Lagos (CMUL)/Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH).
He explained to the gathering at the launch of his ventilator that “the D-Box requires little or no expertise to use and is powered by a rechargeable battery. D-Box is a joint venture product of the Canadian product development firm Inertia Engineering + Design, headed up by Ray Minato and Ligand Corp”.
According to the paper “The product was also publicly endorsed at the Lagos launch by officials from Lagos University Teaching Hospital, National Orthopaedic Hospital Igbobi, Lagos; Lagoon Hospital; and Inertia Engineering + Design, Canada. The joint venture is aiming to get the product into the hands of hospitals and medical centres in the next 16 months”.
In conclusion, these are significant efforts by our Nigerian compatriots, the Medics whose products should not only be patronized but should be supported to see the end of this pandemic. The nation needs to think out of the box and use the available resources to address this global pandemic.
Professor Othman is the Executive Director of National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), ABU Zaria.