Prof. Christian Happi, a university lecturer, has claimed that Yoruba people by the makeup of their genes are immune to the Lassa virus that causes Lassa fever.
The researcher, who is the Dean, College of Postgraduate Studies, Department of Biological Sciences, Redeemer’s University, Ede, Osun State, said the research is still ongoing on why this is so while adding that few cases of Lassa fever recorded among the Yoruba people were “imported.”
Prof. Happi, who is Director, World Funded African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases, ACEGID, while speaking in Ede on the new breakthrough on the rampaging Lassa fever, said Lassa fever virus originated from Nigeria about 1,060 years ago.
Prof. Happi further explained that the disease spread to other West African countries about 400 years ago, stressing that Yoruba have the capacity to resist the virus more than any other ethnic group in the country.
According to the National Mirror, Happi berated the Federal Government for what he described as its “lackadaisical attitude” towards using products of several types of research by scholars to tackle myriads of challenges affecting the growth and development of the nation.
On new research findings, Prof. Happi said it has been discovered that Ribavirin that is currently used to treat Lassa fever was not designed for the disease and as such, would only be effective when given in the early phase of the infection. He posited that with the discovery, ACEGID took advantage of its current knowledge of genomics technology to have better insight into the virus genome and eventually, it has been able to identify potential drug target.
Prof. Happi concluded saying, “Using next generation sequencing, we successfully sequenced hundreds of Lassa fever viruses, thereby generating the largest catalogue of Lassa fever virus sequenced in the world, which in turn resulted to the identification of new epitopes in the virus.”