Dr Paschal Ugochukwu Umeakuana
Dr. Umeakuana and Team Detect Canine Trypanosomosis in Pet Dogs in Nigeria. Dr Paschal Ugochukwu Umeakuana of the Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Abuja and his co-researchers from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, have detected a potentially human-infective microbe in pet dogs in Nigeria. The research which was in collaboration with the University of Bristol and was funded through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Ad hoc scheme administered by the University of Bristol, found that dogs in tropical Africa run the risk of contracting canine trypanosomosis (Trypanosoma brucei gambiense) if they are bitten by bloodsucking tsetse flies carrying trypanosomes i.e. microscopic, single-celled organisms found in the bloodstream. The study revealed that the disease which runs a severe course in dogs and is often fatal, is characterised by “white eyes” or corneal opacity which are the obvious signs of the disease. The study further found that while diagnosis usually relied on examination of a blood smear under the microscope and trypanosomes are easily detected by their rapid motion among the blood cells, it was hard to determine the exact species of trypanosome by microscopy alone. Consequently, Professor Wendy Gibson of the School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol has developed molecular-based methods for trypanosome identification. The collaboration led to the accurate identification of trypanosomes in 19 recent cases of canine trypanosomosis referred to University of Nigeria Veterinary Teaching Hospital (UNVTH) and these results have now been published in the journal, Parasites & Vectors.
Dr Umeakuana notes, “These findings will form a baseline data and will stimulate more interest in the molecular epidemiology of human infective trypanosomes and animals as sentinel and reservoir of human infective trypanosomes in Nigeria and Africa.” Human African trypanosomiasis is rarely found in Nigeria nowadays, and indeed elsewhere in tropical Africa, as this deadly disease is now on track for elimination as a public health problem. According to the World Health Organisation, whereas many countries in tropical Africa suffered devastating epidemics in the last century, fewer than 1500 cases were reported in 2017. Dr. Umeakuana is a Ph. D. student in the Department of Veterinary Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine University of Nigeria Nsukka with Small Animal Medicine as his area of specialization. The title of his thesis is, “Clinical, Haemato-Biochemical and Molecular Characterization of Trypanosomes Isolated from Naturally Infected Dogs”.