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We discover pathogens before they attack — Prof Happi
News > Update      |      Posted: May 16, 2016 06:32:14am GMT
Professor Christian Happi, Centre Director for Africa Centre of Excellence for Genomic of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) and also the Dean of the College of Postgraduate Studies, Redeemer's University

In handling certain diseases, it has been proved that time is of the essence. If a patient presents at the hospital early and the ailment diagnosed early, the possibility of survival is high especially in cases like cancer, Lassa fever and Ebola. So it was a great relief when Professor Christian Happi, Dean, College of Postgraduate Studies, Redeemer’s University Ede, Osun State, came up with the Lassa Fever and Ebola Virus Disease rapid diagnostic kits.

In this chat with Vanguard Learning, the Professor of Molecular Biology and Genomics and Director of World Bank-funded African Seat of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases, the African platform for Genomics to solve the problem of infectious diseases in Africa, speaks on the innovations. Excerpts: By Ebele Orakpo PROTOTYPES:These are the prototypes of Lassa Fever Rapid Diagnostic Tester and the Ebola Rapid Diagnostic Tester (RDT) we developed during the Ebola outbreak in 2014. The Ebola RDT was approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the US Food and Drug Administration.

Using Genomics:“What is very critical about these two prototypes is the fact that we have been able to use Genomics to develop tools that can enable us diagnose Ebola and Lassa fever in record time, in less than 10 minutes. So we moved the diagnostic time for Ebola and Lassa fever from about six hours to 10 minutes, and that is ground-breaking. Basically, with these new tools, we have made the world better because we are now much more prepared for the next outbreak compared to what happened before.

“This is the first time in the history of science where we conducted research during an outbreak and developed a rapid diagnostic test within four months and now, with the outbreak of Lassa fever, we were also able to develop another rapid diagnostic test within few months. Changing the landscape: We basically changed the landscape of science and diagnostics in Africa so we are actually in a much more powerful position as far as diagnostics for infectious disease is concerned. Infectious disease We actually use this same technology, the Genomics platform, for pathogen discovery. At Redeemer’s University, we discovered two new viruses.

We not only discovered the two new viruses but also developed diagnostics for them. Identifying pathogens: The platform we have actually enables us to identify any pathogen present in any blood sample. In addition, we have a computational platform that enables us to relate the nuclear sequence to any organism that is present. That way, we discovered the two new viruses called Ekpoma Virus 1 and Ekpoma Virus 2. We call them Ekpoma because they were discovered in Epoma, Edo State  of Nigeria.

That has put us in a position where we are well poised to discover organisms and pathogens before they can actually start attacking us. That is how we have revolutionised the field in the past three years,” said Happi.

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