An ongoing study being conducted by the Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) targets basic evidence that would be useful for potential TB vaccine studies.
According to Dr. Evaesi Okpokoro, the Principal Investigator of the study called TRACING Study, it measures the risk of TB infection among health care workers who work in HIV clinics.
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He said, “We do know that one of the preventive strategies is how we can get more potent TB vaccines. Without knowing the burden of infection in your own population, it is going to be difficult to see how we can engage that population in a TB vaccine studies plan.”
He said the study is significant because health care workers are at the frontline and highly exposed to patients who might have infectious diseases such as TB.
He said, “We do know that HIV and TB are co-related so there is the possibility that health care workers who see HIV patients more often are likely to be exposed more to TB infections and so that increases potentially their risk for TB infections and eventually if they are duly compromised TB disease.
“We are trying to see how we can strengthen our TB infection control practices but more probably among health care workers that are more exposed within the health care system. “
Asked why they focus is not on the general population since TB is also a major health burden in the country, he said “It is very important to conduct a study like this because of the high exposure that health care workers face in comparison to those in the community.
“We chose health care workers because they have multiple exposures from patients, patient’s visitors, from other colleagues of theirs in the hospital or health care facility. They face multiple exposures. More so, they are a critical mass of people who are limited in number.
“Considering the risk of exposure, health care workers see persons who have TB, their relatives come to visit them in the clinic, they may have TB. The health care workers themselves are limited and are a vital force for the health care system.
“It is good to focus on the entire population but when you have a treatment, you want to start it with those who are more highly exposed than the others.”
Dr Okpokoro said the study is a prospective study, meaning that they engage health workers and follow them up at certain times for about two years. “At the moment, we are almost at the end of the study. We have just one last visit. We have paid like three visits; we are on the fourth visit which hopefully should commence by next month.”
He said that the fourth visit should be the last visit for the study, adding that the researchers are currently analyzing data so they can present the findings of the preliminary data. “At the end of the study, we’ll do a final analysis to see the findings, which may be the same as the preliminary data. Once the analysis is done, then we’ll be able to publish it in journals.”
He said the goal is to use the data to strengthen infection control practice.
“We want the individual health facilities to understand that if you work in a facility, there is the risk of TB infection. We want to know the number of people who have TB infection in a facility, the level of understanding that they have of infection control practice and the level to which their facility operates infection control strategies. This is to motivate the administrators or the health managers to buckle up or improve in their gaps in their infection control practice, “Dr. Okpokoro said.