NITR’s contributions towards the elimination of Trypanosomiasis and onchocerciasis in Nigeria
This is a report on the contributions of the Nigerian Institute for Trypanosomiasis (and Onchocerciasis) Research (NITR) towards the elimination of the two Neglected Tropical Diseases. The socio-economic importance of African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness in man, SammorÅ in domestic animals) and onchocerciasis (River blindness) cannot be overemphasized. The sleeping sickness epidemics in the twentieth century resulted in loss of huge numbers of human lives and desertion of the affected localities and farm lands by survivors. To provide short and long term strategies towards the elimination of the burden of African Trypanosomiasis, the then British Colonial Government established the West African Institute for Trypanosomiasis Research (WAITR) in 1951 to serve the needs of Nigeria, Gold Coast (Ghana), Sierra Leone and The Gambia. WAITR metamorphosed to NITR in 1964 following the nation’s independence in 1960. And in 1975, mandate for onchocerciasis research was given to NITR. From its inception to date, NITR had pioneered research works that curbed the outbreaks of Sleeping Sickness, enhanced recognition of the public health importance of onchocerciasis and emphasizing poor funding of research as a great challenge militating against the elimination of endemic parasitic diseases such as trypanosomiasis and onchocerciasis. This paper presents most of the directions and contents of research (diagnostics, therapeutic approaches, etc.) including collaborations NITR had to forge in its efforts to drive the elimination of the two diseases from Nigeria. Future research works are indicated.
Keywords: Trypanosomiasis; onchocerciasis; elimination; Nigeria.