The Executive Secretary of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NaCCA) has described as encouraging the news that scientists from the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) and the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) have successfully sequenced the genome responsible for the Covid-19 global pandemic.
Dr Prince Hamid Armah who is also a lecturer at the University of Education, Winneba said the breakthrough “is a major step in the search for a cure or vaccine and will guide the work of scientists all over the world.”
While applauding the University of Ghana for this major feat, and the NPP Parliamentary aspirant for Kwesimintsim said the universities must devote more attention to their “research function, a vital part of their mandate. This would not only extend the frontiers of scholarship but provide vital data to guide public policy drafting and decision making.”
The Kwesimintim MP aspirant who is also a researcher challenged other institutions of higher learning to get involved in the search for solutions to Covid19 and other public health crisis.
The discovery by the scientist in the University of Ghana is important because it provides useful information about the genetic composition of the viral strains, at least as far the Ghanaian cases are concerned.
According to the UG scientists, they analysed samples of 15 confirmed cases in Ghana to gain a comprehensive understanding of the variations of the virus present in Ghana.
The SARS-CoV-2 genome was rapidly sequenced by Chinese researchers. It is an RNA molecule of about 30,000 bases containing 15 genes, including the S gene which codes for a protein located on the surface of the viral envelope (for comparison, our genome is in the form of a double helix of DNA about 3 billion bases in size and contains about 30,000 genes).
Comparative genomic analyses have shown that SARS-CoV-2 belongs to the group of Betacoronaviruses and that it is very close to SARS-CoV, responsible for an epidemic of acute pneumonia which appeared in November 2002 in the Chinese province of Guangdong and then spread to 29 countries in 2003.
A total of 8,098 cases were recorded, including 774 deaths. It is known that bats of the genus Rhinolophus (potentially several cave species) were the reservoir of this virus and that a small carnivore, the palm civet (Paguma larvata), may have served as an intermediate host between bats and the first human cases.
The University of Ghana discovery found that “while there were some differences between the strains from different countries all the 15 geromes [in Ghana] generally resembled (with 92% similarity) the reference strain that was isolated in the Wuhan province of China where the outbreak began.”
Dr Armah congratulated the University of Ghana for the feat and also called on other institutions to go further, including investigating the efficacy of local herbal medicines in dealing with this virus and other illnesses that currently confound conventional treatments.
Below is his statement
We must all be encouraged by the fantastic news from the University of Ghana, where a local team of scientists at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research and the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) have successfully sequenced the genome responsible for the Covid-19 global pandemic.
This breakthrough is a major step in the search for a cure or vaccine and will guide the work of scientists all over the world. The achievement shows that our local institutions of higher learning can and should perform their research function, a vital part of their mandate. This would not only extend the frontiers of scholarship but provide vital data to guide public policy drafting and decision making.
It must also challenge other centres of higher learning to participate in the search for solutions to public health and other challenges through rigorous research and application of data.
I congratulate the University of Ghana for this great feat and I call on it and our other institutions to go further, including investigating the efficacy of local herbal medicines in dealing with this virus and other illnesses that currently confound conventional treatments.
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