Interview with Olabode Omotoso of the National Cancer Prevention Programme, Nigeria
Olabode E. Omotoso, from the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Research Officer at National Cancer Prevention Programme, Nigeria and Team Leader at Sprout Initiative team, envisioned with providing scholarships and educational advancements to students living with disabilities and those in rural areas.
What is behind the observed low COVID-19 fatality in Africa? What is the state of research communication in Africa? Read through Mr. Olabode’s engaging responses on the impact of life expectancy and SARS-Cov-2 genomic variation on COVID-19 transmission and fatality in Africa.
Olabode Omotoso has always been interested in the homeostasis of man and nature, the balance between the wide arrays of activities within and outside the human body. Early enough, he was exposed to the cell as the basic unit of life. It was so intriguing for him to view an onion cell, for the first time, using a microscope in his first biology class in high school. This ignited his passion to explore the field of Biology thereby facilitating the choice of Biochemistry for undergraduate studies. Moreso, it was quite exciting undertaking research in Cancer and Molecular Biology during his MSc programme in the prestigious University of Ibadan, Nigeria.
Olabode Omotoso is currently a Research officer at National Cancer Prevention Programme, a leading NGO, focused on eradicating cancer in Nigeria via advocating early detection and preventive measures. He also leads the Sprout Initiative team envisioned with providing scholarships and educational advancements to students living with disabilities and those in rural areas. He believes nothing can stop a man except himself, this has been his driving force and motivation over the years.
How did you learn about AfricArXiv?
Through my search for an African based repository
Have you previously shared results on other preprint or institutional repositories?
Yes, I have shared with Biorxiv and preprints.org
Mutational Hotspots and Conserved Domains in P53 Tumour Suppressor Protein – https://doi.org/10.20944/preprints202008.0562.v1
Life Expectancy and SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Variations Plays Key Role in COVID-19 Transmission and Low Fatality Rate in Africa – 10.14293/111.000/000012.v1
SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Variation – African perspective – https://dx.doi.org/10.17504/protocols.io.bmhjk34n
Mutational Analysis Revealed Polymorphic Variants in Exon 3 and Exon 4 Of P53 Gene in Cervical Cancer – https://doi.org/10.1177/0300891620914148
How is your research relevant to the African context?
My research is specifically tailored to addressing knowledge gaps and challenges in the African resource and academia setting. Africa from my perspective is a gold mine filled with untapped treasures, my study thus provides a template on which future studies could leverage on with special emphasis on infectious diseases. Cancer, a multifactorial disease, has risen through the ranks to be one of the most dreaded diseases globally, especially in the tropics, claiming many lives. Cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among African women with alarming increasing incidence and fatality. Cervical cancer has a higher chance of cure if detected early but the perception, awareness and knowledge is low in developing nations. Hence, my research is focused on the Genome-Wide Association Studies in relation to cervical cancer within the African population. I hope to focus on identifying carcinogens and novel anticancer drug targets by examining cell signaling dysfunctionalities in carcinogenesis and translating these findings into lifestyle modification and potent therapeutics by examining phytochemicals in African native plants.
What challenge were you setting out to address when you started this work and what are the discoveries that have led you to your current results?
As regards to my study on “Life Expectancy and SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Variations Plays Key Role in COVID-19 Transmission and Low Fatality Rate in Africa”, it was predicted that the coronavirus outbreak in the African population would be very lethal and result to economic devastation owing to the prevalence of immune-compromised population (due to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, hepatitis virus, malaria etc.), poverty, low lifespan, fragile health care systems, poor economic decisions, and lifestyle factors. Africa was the last continent to be hit, and surprisingly boast of about an 80 % recovery rate and 3.5 % fatality rate with the highest death toll reported in developed nations. Hence, a debate as to what contributory factors could have been responsible for the low fatality rate due to COVID-19 in Africa.
Though several arguments (as also seen in our study) have posited that Africa has a low testing rate, thereby, a lot of COVID-19 cases might not have been accounted for. . However, with the current data available, though with daily increasing incidence, the mortality rate due to COVID-19 in Africa has been minimal.
I therefore looked at the role of factors such as low life expectancy, low testing rate, and late incidence of the disease, which gives an advantage for early preparation before the outbreak by enforcing regulatory guidelines (active surveillance, isolation, quarantine, contact tracing and social distancing among others) in line with World Health Organization guidelines in managing the pandemic in Africa.
My study identified low life expectancy, low testing rate, late incidence of the disease, adherence to public health guidelines as important factors that have contributed to the observed low COVID-19 fatality in Africa. However, sufficient data is still unavailable at the moment to ascertain the epidemiology, transmission, genomic variation and the true impact of the pandemic in Africa. Hence, caution must not be thrown into the wind.
How do you envision research communication in Africa?
Where we are coming from, permit me to assume, 99.9 % of African researchers (including myself) want to publish research findings in internationally renowned top-tier journals like Nature. The quest for promotion, high impact factors, “publish or perish” syndrome, recognition among many others has led to African researchers abandoning African-based journals for international counterparts. As the saying goes; ‘Rome was not built in a day’. It is pertinent that Africans must promote Africa; our heritage, culture, food, innovations and in this context, our research findings.
Where we are now, research communication in Africa is on a right track with the dedication of resource repositories like AfricArxiv and AJOL among many others to effective dissemination and promotion of African-focused scholarly research findings. Africans have also begun to source for local and regional journals for their research communications, which produces a win-win situation for appropriate readership, authors, journals and mama Africa.
On coronavirus, from the over 100,000 complete SARS-CoV-2 sequences available in public repositories, Africa has barely contributed over 2,000 viral sequences (2 %). Collaboration with scientists and research institutes in African nations is highly recommended so as to enhance their delivery capacity and research communication. On a final note, African-based institutions should be encouraged to subscribe also to African-based journals in order to promote wide readership and open access to research findings. In the same vein, journal editors and reviewers should scale up a timely and very efficient peer review process to promote excellence and interest in research communications.
I see light at the end of the tunnel
Thank you for your time and great contribution to research communication in Africa. Mr. Olabode is working to address knowledge gaps and challenges in the African resource and academia setting. Research communication in Africa is on a right track with the dedication of resource repositories to effective dissemination and promotion of African-focused scholarly research findings.
Do you have any thoughts or questions for Mr. Olabode? You can leave them in the comment box below.
Editors: Johanssen Obanda (text) and Priscilla Mensah (image)
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