By Sunday Ani
Monday, June 27 marked the start of a concerted effort to combat an overlooked bacterial pathogen, Helicobacter pylori, simply called H. pylori, which is ravaging Africa. This is the day the Director of Research, Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, Lagos, Professor Stella Smith unveiled a team of African experts dedicated to the advancing H. Pylori research to form the LTD/GTE African Helicobacter and Microbiota Study Initiative. It was indeed a gathering of the best scientists in the world in the field of molecular biology.
In his welcome address, Smith described H. Pylori as a type of bacteria that, when it enters the human digestive tract, can cause ulcers in the stomach lining or upper stomach. small intestine and ultimately lead to stomach cancer in humans. some individuals.
“The pathogen has been implicated in an array of gastric disorders including peptic ulcer disease, gastritis, gastric mucosa associated with lymphoid tissue, lymphoma, and gastric adenocarcinoma,” she added.
Smith’s efforts and concerns about the disease date back to his pre-doctoral degree days in Manchester, England, on a fellowship from the European Union. She said she was working on Campylobacter jejuni and C. coli in early 1994 when her supervisor told her students he had caught the virus. “While asking me if he was referring to an insect, he photocopied two pages on H. pylori, which I had never heard of until then, and gave me and, after reading, I thought it was for Caucasians. . But to my surprise, on returning home that evening, my landlady’s (Nigerian) sister told us that she had taken a test while she was pregnant and had been informed that she had H. pylori. There and there she asked me if I knew anything about H. pylori, and that’s when I realized it was a disease that affected all humans, not just Caucasians. she says.
According to her, the incident sparked her interest in continuing her research on the subject after her doctorate, the cumulative efforts of which are assembling experts from several African countries to advance research on H. pylori, determine its precise prevalence , its diagnosis and management in Africa.
She noted that 50% of the world’s population is thought to be infected with H. pylori, with people of different races and regions of the world having varying levels of severity and disease outcomes: “As early as 1994, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC ), a division of the World Health Organization (WHO), has classified H. pylori as a Class 1 carcinogen. Given the status of this pathogen, researchers, policymakers, and governments in the Americas, Europe and Asia have paid particular attention to the diagnosis, treatment, management and eventual control of H. pylori,” she said.
The lack of concerted efforts in Africa to control the disease as has been done in Europe, America and Asia, coupled with her desire to learn more about the disease led her to come into contact with experts from all over the world. Also during this research, she heard about the European Helicobacter and Microbiota Study Group (EHMSG), which has been in existence for over 30 years and this is what prompted her decision to bring together African experts as well. to form the African Helicobacter and Microbiota Study Group. (AHMSG), which is today registered as African Helicobacter and Microbiota Initiative LTD/GTE, with its registered office at NIMR, Lagos, Nigeria. The initiative, in addition to serving as an advisory body on research in the field of H. pylori, will also advance research on H. pylori, determine its prevalence, diagnosis, treatment and associated complications in Africa.
She noted that H. pylori is more or less a neglected pathogen in Africa and called for more attention in this regard, although she said AHMSG was starting with the support of EHMSG, which has been around for a long time. over 30 years. and responsible for developing and updating the famous Maastricht/Florence Consensus
Professor Delight Smith expressed her gratitude to Christian Schulz, Peter Malfertheirner and Richen Medical Science Group of Europe, whose unwavering support and partnership with AHMSG led to the groundbreaking event, which ushered in a research movement that would curb and would bring H. pylori to Africa at the bare minimum.
The AHMSG, which has Professor Smith as President and Dr Mohamed Alboraie of Al Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt, as Secretary General, has 13 other members, whose areas of expertise range from gastroenterology to surgery, clinical microbiology, medical microbiology. , hepatology, microbiology and molecular epidemiology.
The NIMR Chief Executive commended the group members for coming up with the idea, but noted that often Africa is not well represented on these issues, even when Africa has, perhaps, the voters. the most diverse.
“So we won’t be able to get the proper benefits from these things, but it’s different because it’s Africa-centric. Therefore, it puts Africa in an advantageous position to be able to research and find solutions applicable to Africa and, of course, to the rest of the world,” he said.
He also said: “I would like to congratulate the group for this as well as Professor Smith for putting together this number of his colleagues from different countries. It only shows that it is very well recognized in the field.
In his goodwill message, the Vice Chancellor, Mountain Top University, Ibafo, Ogun State, awarded the school’s rating as having one of the best molecular biology laboratories in Nigeria to the institution’s partnership with the Professor Smith. “You are part of our success story, as your partnership and support of the research and academic training available in the biological sciences cannot be quantified. We hope our students will benefit from this initiative as we explore opportunities for partnership and collaboration. I pray that Africa and the world at large will benefit from this initiative,” he said.
The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, represented by former Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor O Familoni, said the African Best Minds initiative was a welcome development as many H. pylori patients experience many difficulties in dealing with the bacteria. . “While other bacteria are treated within seven days, this one takes about a month to be treated. I am confident that their studies and research in this area will give hope to patients who suffer from this disease. The fact that the African infection is treated in Africa is also a plus because it will ensure better treatment than elsewhere in Europe.Africans know their problem better than anyone,” he said.
He pointed out that if Professor Smith could be part of the initiative, it means that the group was very competent. “You can rest assured that whatever the collaboration and expectations of the University of Lagos, we expect that very soon our school and the initiative will have a collaboration,” he added.
The scientists present came from Europe (Germany, France and Spain), Asia (Japan) and Africa (Nigeria, Egypt, Cameroon, South Africa, Morocco, Tanzania and Senegal).