Scientists to highlight research on epilepsy causing tapeworms

27Nov 2019
Marc Nkwame
The Guardian
Scientists to highlight research on epilepsy causing tapeworms

The spread of epilepsy causing tapeworms, whose infections are said to lead to among other things, death, is reported to be more acute in southern and northern parts of Tanzania and becoming a health time-bomb in Africa as a whole.

Dr Faustine Ndugulile

The Deputy Minister for Health, Dr Faustine Ndugulile said here yesterday that taeniasolium, the tapeworm bacteria, is widespread in Songwe, Mbeya, Ruvuma and Manyara regions where residents are known for keeping pigs, despite that they roam about freely.

He was addressing a scientific conference under the auspices of ‘Cystinet Africa’ to examine taeniosis and cysticercosis infections on the continent and the way forward in pig farming so that the animals no longer continue to host and spread the deadly worms.

The conference is attended by officials of the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the aid organisation Deutsche Gesellschaft fur InternationaleZusammenarbeit (GIZ), World Health Organization (WHO), Cysticercosis Working Group of Southern Africa (CGWESA) as well as CYSTNET Europe.

Among keynote speakers are scientists and researchers from Africa, the United States, Canada, Europe, Peru and Australia. Also, there are presenters from Africa project principal investigators from Zambia, Mozambique, Tanzania and Germany.

It was observed that Taeniasolium Cysticercosis is one among infectious zoonotic diseases of global public health concern, with its persistence being related to poverty and ignorance.

“It causes considerable health, social and economic problems in endemic countries including Tanzania,” observed the National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) director general, Prof. Yunus Mgaya.

The disease not only cause epilepsy, dementia and even death among humans but it affects animal husbandry by making pork unsafe for human consumption, thus reducing the market for pigs and related swine products.

Cystercosis is a leading preventable cause of deaths and disabilities from food-borne diseases in endemic countries, while from medical point of view, Teaniasolium-cysticercosis has been proven to be associated with occurrence of epilepsy.

Prof. Andrea Winkler from Germany lauded Tanzania for adopting the ‘One Health’ approach, which involves joint efforts and collaboration of veterinarians, medical doctors and agricultural extension officers.

“The initiative brings medical issues concerning humans, animals and environment onto a single platform made up of the joint efforts and collaboration of veterinarians, medical doctors, agricultural extension officers, researchers and relevant governmental agencies. The idea is to find sustainable solutions for prevention, control and elimination of zoonotic diseases including teaniasolium-cysticercosis,” she said.

Tanzania acknowledges enormous financial and technical support provided by Germany through BMBF in this direction, he stated.

Cystinet-Africa is a network that draws members which include research institutions and universities from the three African countries and Germany.

Research projects are conducted under the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) and NIMR in Tanzania, the University of Zambia in Lusaka, and Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo.

There are also two partner institutions at the Technical University of Munich in Germany.

SUA and NIMR acknowledged financial support provided by BMBF to facilitate advanced interdisciplinary research on poverty-related and neglected diseases.

The funding initiative also aims at increasing the capacity of North-South and South-South research collaborations to produce locally relevant and useful research contributing to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal 3.