By Yusuf A. Zurmi

Prof. Kuta delivering his lecture. Photo: Elija Yisa.

Prof. Faruk Adamu Kuta of the Department of Microbiology, School of Life Sciences (SLS) has said that the only credible option for the control of viral diseases in developing countries and the world at large is to identify the genotypes/ serotypes of pathogenic viruses in circulation and develop indigenous vaccines rather than importing vaccines that may not serve the purpose it is meant to serve.

The professor of Medical Microbiology stated this when he delivered the University’s 77th Inaugural Lecture titled: “Knowing the Molecular Heterogeneity of Human Pathogenic Viruses: My Concern and Your Hope” on Wednesday April 14, 2021 at the University Auditorium, Main Campus, Gidan Kwano.

The lecturer who is the Director, Academic Planning Unit and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) designate gave three hypotheses that explain the origin of viruses as regressive hypothesis, progressive hypothesis and self-replication hypothesis.

He noted that in the past, some diseases (Cancers, Hepatitis and Acquired Immune Deciency Syndrome)  were attributed to either spiritual attack or witchcraft due to difficulty associated with the diagnosis and even treatment of such diseases.

Explaining further, the don said viruses are the smallest infectious agents (ranging from 20 to 300nm in diameter) that have only one kind of nucleic acid (RNA or DNA) as their genome. According to him, the nucleic acid is enclosed in a protein shell known as capsid, which may be surrounded by a lipid containing envelop and unlike bacteria, fungi and protozoa, viruses do not have cell wall or membrane, cytoplasmic chamber and ribosome, hence, cannot produce proteins on their own which makes them totally dependent on their host for survival.

He disclosed that challenges in the treatment of viral diseases include amongst others, lack of infrastructural capacity to diagnose the diseases, emergence of new serotypes due to genetic recombination and re-assortment and that most of the licensed antiviral drugs in use today were not designed based on rational procedures (i.e the target sites were not identified before the design of the drug) for effective selective toxicity and this explains why almost all antiviral drugs exhibit severe side effects.

Prof. Kuta who expressed deep concern over difficulty associated with the treatment of diseases (gastroenteritis, liver cirrhosis, hepatitis, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, Ebola fever, Lassa fever, COVID-19 and cervical, breast and penal cancers), the mortality and socioeconomic burden on the victims and their family members said that the diseases can best be controlled through prophylactic measures rather than curative measures.

He stressed the need for synergy between government and non-governmental organizations to fund researches that will target the production of indigenous vaccines to be used for the control of viral diseases.

While advocating for enabling laws to bring about strong collaborations between government, non-governmental organizations and universities in the area of funding researches in identifying circulating genotypes/serotypes of most pathogenic viruses to serve as data for the development of indigenous vaccines, urged the government to direct its attention towards the establishment of regional laboratories, equipped with state-of-the-art facilities that will address problems of diagnosis of viral diseases, particularly during epidemics.

In his address at the occasion, the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Abdullahi Bala, fsssn, commended the lecturer for his presentation and acknowledged the presences of the immediate past Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Musbau Adewumi Akanji, former, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Prof. Akim Osunde, former Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Admin), Prof. Suleiman Sadiku, the immediate past Registrar of the institution, Mrs. Victoria Nnawo Kolo, and other dignitaries at the occasion.

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