Lassa fever vaccine in first stage of trial

By Moses Emorinken, Abuja

The Federal Government has said that it is currently developing a vaccine for Lassa fever. The vaccine which is in its first stage of trial is being developed in the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital in Benin by top Nigerian scientists and experts from Germany.

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who made this known at a press briefing yesterday in Abuja, said: ”Top Nigerian scientists in the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital are working on a vaccine for Lassa fever in collaboration with German experts. They have conducted a first stage trial. It might take a couple of years to completely develop it because developing a vaccine is in stages.

“However, the testing, if it works and is safe, requires some time. It has to go through several stages of quality control before it can be deployed. There is a lot of progress at the moment.

“Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital is Nigeria’s centre for excellence for that kind of sickness – viral haemorrhagic infections. It is where a lot of research is being conducted and where a lot of tests are being done. They have a lot of equipment and get a lot of support from abroad, including German, British and American institutes”.

The minister said the country had five strategically placed diagnostic laboratories for testing Lassa fever.

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“We have five laboratories that can diagnose Lassa fever, and they are strategically placed. In fact, we are in the process of getting the sixth one now, courtesy of the West African Health Organization which we also want to place strategically.

Currently, there are five diagnostic centres for Lassa fever in the country, namely: National Reference Laboratory in Abuja, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Federal Medical Centre Owo and Alex Ekwueme Federal Teaching Hospital Abakaliki.

Concerning the strange disease in Benue State, the Director-General of the NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said: “Benue is still not fully resolved. We have two NCDC teams there at the moment to support the response more. The affected village in Benue is very hard to access.

“More samples were collected over the past few days and are on their way to Abuja at the moment. We will go through a series of further tests to define exactly what is happening. It is either a chemical poisoning of something that the villagers had eaten or an infectious disease. So, we are going to continue carrying out these tests”.