– Experts endorse product for malaria test
Geneith Pharmaceuticals Limited, an indigenous pharmaceutical company, has partnered with Fyodor Biotechnologies Corporation, a privately-owned company specialising in innovative diagnostic and biopharmaceutical products, to introduce Urine Malaria Test (UMT), the first ever non-blood malaria test kit, to the Nigerian market.
The grand event, which was held at the Malaria Research Centre (MRI) Auditorium of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), was graced by dignitaries from all walks of life, including Senator Abiola Ajimobi, Oyo State Governor, who was represented by Dr Wale Lawal of the Oyo State Ministry of Health; Dr Jide Idris, Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, represented by Dr Folayinka Daniels; Pharm. (Prince) Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi, chairman, Juli Pharmacy, represented by Mr. Oludare Oludamisi; Prof. Adewale Oke, chief medical director (CMD), LASUTH, represented by Dr Lydia Aborishade; Mr Ken Opara, general manager, Fidelity Bank Plc; Mr Mohammed Sanni Dangote, MD, Dansa Foods Nigeria Limited; Chief Emmanuel Umenwa, chairman, Geneith Pharmaceuticals Limited; and Dr Dolapo Ogundipe, who represented the First Lady of Oyo State, Mrs. Florence Abiola Ajimobi, among others.
Speaking at the event, Dr Edwin Agbo, chairman, Fyodor Biotechnologies Corporation, USA, disclosed that UMT was developed by Nigerians for Nigeria and the rest of the world, adding that Nigeria is taking giant strides in health care innovation.
He also acknowledged the contributions of partner organisations and institutions towards the revolutionary innovation.
“Fyodor alone cannot take the credit for the eight years’ journey as we had many partners along the way, like the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria; the Federal Ministry of Health; National Malaria Elimination Programme, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, ANDI Centre of Excellence for Malaria Diagnosis, College of Medicine and the University of Lagos.”
Dr Agbo, a Research Fellow at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, USA, further stressed that UMT is indicated for use in individuals who present with fever suspected of being malaria, adding that the product is ideal for rapid, point-of-need diagnosis of clinical malaria from urine, instead of blood, noting that this offers significant advantages over microscopy and other malaria diagnostics, which require the use of blood.
“The UMT dipstick detects novel Plasmodium proteins shed in the urine of febrile malaria patients and can be performed and read by persons with little or no training,” he said.
Shedding more light on the benefits of the product, Dr Agbo said, “We all know that malaria is a deadly disease and it is a fact that about half of those who ever lived on earth died of malaria. So the ‘take-home’ message for all today is that our experiences as doctors, pharmacists and individuals who deal with patients may not be enough to tell if a patient has malaria or not, and that the best way to know if a patient has malaria or not is to first conduct a test as not all fever are due to malaria.”
Dr Agbo, who had been previously given the Outstanding Business Innovation by African Diaspora award by the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) in December 2014, further revealed that UMT, which had been endorsed by the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), and approved by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), would be available in pharmacies across Nigeria before the end of April 2016, adding that it would be distributed exclusively by Geneith Pharmaceuticals Nigeria Limited.
Also speaking at the event, Prof. Wellington Oyibo, principal investigator and director, ANDI Centre of Excellence for Malaria Diagnosis, College of Medicine, University of Lagos (CMUL), who presented the outcome of a test carried out using the new product, revealed that the UMT compared favourably with other rapid blood malaria tests and conventional microscopic test in the market, adding that it could tell effectively if one had malaria or not and that the sensitivity was 78 per cent.
Oyibo, who is also a consultant malariologist with the World Health Organisation (WHO), noted that there is no perfect test anywhere in the World, adding however that 85 per cent of the malaria parasite could be detected when using UMT.
According to him, in order to validate the product with the regulatory agencies, Fyodor Biotechnologies partnered with the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, the Federal Ministry of Health, Nigeria, the National Malaria Elimination Programme, the World Health Organisation (WHO), and NPO Southwest, Nigeria, to enroll over 2,000 participants for pivotal clinical trials in Ikorodu, Lagos; while validation started in Nigeria in August 2013 and rounded off in March 2014.
He explained further that “the innovation tells in 25 minutes or less if a fever is due to malaria or not, using only a few drops of urine.”
While speaking with our correspondent, Chief Emmanuel Umenwa, chairman, Geneith Pharmaceuticals Limited, stated that the test kit was not meant to encourage self-medication but to help individuals detect and diagnose malaria early, and thus reduce blind treatment, in which people take anti-malarial drugs for any kind of fever.
According to him, the greatest advantage of the product, and the reason Geneith Pharmaceuticals Limited took the gauntlet of ensuring its availability in every Nigerian home is that the Urine Malaria Test kit (UMT) does not require blood.
“It is one-step and not complicated to do. Results are obtained quickly and accurately. It is affordable and much less expensive than the current test that is done in the pharmacies or hospitals. So, doctors are able to deliver the UMT to patients cheaper than the current method of blood test,” he stated.
On how to ensure that only the genuine product gets to patients, Chief Umenwa said each of the test pack has a product code, which is revealed when scratched, and the code can be sent by sms to the number 1393, which will prompt an instant reply on whether the product is valid or not.
Speaking earlier, the duo of the Chief Medical Director (CMD), Lagos State Teaching Hospital, Professor Adewale Oke; and the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr Jide Idris, said the UMT came at the right time as the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that a patient should be tested before treatment.
Oke added that with UMT, the high rate of maternal mortality in Nigeria would be drastically reduced.
The high points of the event were the unveiling of Fyodor UMT brand, amidst cheers and applause from all the dignitaries; and the raffle draw which saw participants smiling home with different gifts and consolation prizes.