Nigeria has only 200 virologists, expert laments

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Lara Adejoro

The President of the Nigerian Society for Virology, Prof. Clement Mboto, has said that Nigeria has only about 200 virologists to oversee the diagnosis, management, and prevention of infection, despite the country battling multiple disease outbreaks.

Mboto noted that there are no facilities to practise the profession and up to 99% of the hospitals in the country lack virologists.

The PUNCH reports that Nigeria is currently battling an outbreak of diseases such as Lassa fever, monkeypox and cholera among others.

Speaking in an interview with our correspondent on Thursday, Mboto also lamented that virologists lack the facilities and laboratories to carry out their duties in the country.

He said, “Had it been that there are facilities to practise the profession, you can say we need a vast number of them because there is no hospital setting that we are not supposed to have a virologist. If you go to 90-99% of our hospitals, we don’t have virologists because there is no provision for them to practise.

“I know within the country, we are only about 200 and the number is not enough. The problem is not just registering the figure because even those of us who are virologists don’t have the facilities to practise the profession.

“The main laboratories we need for the practice of virology are P3 and P4 but none are existing. The P3 laboratory available is privately owned.”

Continuing, the professor of virology said no university in the country offers virology as a course at the first-degree level because the facilities to set up a virology laboratory are expensive.

“The University of Ibadan offers virology at its post-graduate level; Ebonyi State has it at the post-graduate level, and Nsukka has it at the post-graduate level,” he added.

According to him, there is a need for sufficient facilities for the diagnosis of viral infection.

“There is no viral epidemic that will come up that we cannot predict if we have facilities. When you can predict, you can make provisions to accommodate the challenges that are going to come.

“We need laboratories for diagnosis and research purposes and we need to have extensive facilities for the training of virologists in the country,” he said.

A medical virologist at the Adeleke University, Ede, Dr. Oladipo Kolawole, said there was the need to put more resources in the universities for students to study virology as a course.

“The equipment used to train virologists is very expensive; it’s making it difficult to have people study the course. Those of us who studied virology spent a lot of money on projects and we had no support from internal or external organisations.

“The implication of having few virologists is the same as having few medical doctors in the country. There are emerging and re-emerging infectious disease of viral origins in the country, so we need more virologists to do more research to find solutions to any of the viral disease that might be emerging or re-emerging in the future,” Kolawole said.

Our correspondent contacted the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, for comments, but he did not respond to calls or the text message sent to him as of the time of filing this report.

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