NIMR’s Prof. Stella Smith emerges President, African Helicobacter and Microbiota study Group

NIMR’s Prof. Stella Smith emerges President, African Helicobacter and Microbiota study Group

… as H. Pylori receives focus

A Director at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, NIMR, Prof. Stella Smith has been appointed the founding President of the African Helicobacter and Microbiota Study Group.

Smith who is the Director of Research, Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at NIMR and also a Professor of Microbiology at the Mountain Top University, Ogun State will be piloting the affairs of AHMSG which is also registered as African Helicobacter and Microbiota Study Initiative, AHMSI, Ltd/Gte.  

AHMSG is a group comprising renowned scholars from eight African countries including Nigeria, Tanzania, South Africa, Cameroon, Egypt, Kenya, Senegal and Morocco.

Inaugurating the AHMSG founding members in Lagos, DG, NIMR, Prof. Babatunde Salako, said it is meant to advance the infection known as Helicobacter pylori, commonly called Hpylori research, determine accurate prevalence, diagnosis, treatment and management of infection in the continent.

Hpylori is is a type of bacteria that infects the stomach and small bowel. The pathogen has been implicated in an array of gastric disorders including peptic ulcer disease, gastritis; gastric, mucosa associated lymphoid tissue, MALT, lymphoma and gastric adenocarcinoma

He noted that gathering experts like AHMSG was long overdue, stating that the area that it has chosen is one organism known to cause several diseases.

Salako said: “This is one opportunity for bringing the group of Africans together who have experience and common problems to be able to use that platform to research into the occurrence of that bacteria, how prevalence, epidemiology, how to treat and how to prevent it. And most of the time, these things are done in the global world and Africans are usually often left out.

“My charge to them is that what they have started today, is not allowed to die; rather they should water it and make it grow beyond what it is today because we have a very large population in Africa and Nigeria in particular. If this group continues to grow, then it can absorb a lot more scientists.”

A well travelled Smith has a wealth of experience in the area of research as she holds a PhD in Medical Microbiology from the College of Medicine, University of Lagos with special interest in Molecular epidemiology, microbiome and antimicrobial resistance of infectious diseases among many others.

In her address, Smith stated that H. pylori is more or less a neglected pathogen in Africa.

She said: “More attention has overtime been given to malaria, HIV & AIDS, TB, maternal and child health and in recent times SARS-Cov-2, COVID-19. This does not imply that H. pylori is not ravaging and causing a lot of health challenges on the continent.

“It has been reported that 50 percent of the world’s population are infected with H. pylori with people of different races and regions around the world having varied levels of severity and pathological outcomes.

“As far back as 1994, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, IARC, a division of the World Health Organisation, WHO categorized H. pylori as a class 1 carcinogen.

“Considering the status of this pathogen, researchers, policy makers and governments in America, Europe, and Asia have paid keen attention in the diagnosis, treatment/management and possible control of H. pylori.

“In a review we published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology 2019 on infection with H. pylori and challenges encountered in Africa, it was revealed that the prevalence of H. pylori infection in Africa was as high as 80 percent and could be higher because some regions lack actual prevalence data and there was no African guideline as compared to the Maastricht V/Florence Consensus of Europe, American College of Gastroenterology, ACG, clinical guidelines, Toronto consensus, Asia-Pacific consensus, Chinese National consensus, etc.

“AHMSG is kicking off on the right footing as it was supported by the European Helicobacter and Microbiota Study Group (EHMSG) that has been in existence for over thirty years and responsible for developing and updating the famous Maastricht /Florence Consensus for which I was a proud delegate of the VIth Edition last year,” she said.

Also, the Consultant Gastroenterologist at the Department of Medicine, University of Benin Teaching Hospital, UBTH, Dr Rose Ugiagbe, said H. pylori has become a source of concern as more than 50 percent of  cases related to it are seen every day.

She explained that a lot of people are also not aware of it.

Ugiagbe said: “Most people are not aware of this infection, so that is why we are coming out to let people know that something like this exists and it is harmful. People are afraid of cancer but they are not afraid of H. pyloriIt is very treatable and there are drugs for it if you catch the patients early. It can be prevented and complications from it can be prevented.

 

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