149th Inaugural Obunge Proffers Solutions To Women's Reproductive Health Issues By Humphrey Ogu

Issues bordering on women's reproductive health came into full focus at the 149th Inaugural Lecture delivered by Professor Orikomaba Obunge of the Department of Medical Microbiology and Parasitology in the Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences, College of Health Sciences.

In the Lecture entitled, “The Woman, Her Reproductive Tract and Microbes: The Normal and the Abnormal,” which held at the Ebitimi Banigo Auditorium on Thursday, June 28, 2018, Professor Obunge said: “Infections of the reproductive tract, also known as reproductive tract infections (RTI) affect both men and women, but in many cases the complications and consequences they cause can be more severe for women.”

Explaining that when infections are transmitted following sexual intercourse, they are known as sexually transmitted infection (STI), Professor Obunge pointed out that a man with STI such as penile discharge is symptomatic in about 98 per cent of cases making it possible for him to ascertain that he may have contracted an infection. “With proper health-seeking behaviour, he could get appropriate treatment to remedy the situation. However, 50 to 70 per cent of women with such infections may not know it until complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease and subsequently chronic pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancy and secondary infertility set in,” he warned.

“One of the key roles of the Clinical Microbiologist is to make sense of all the microbes that grow from the sample obtained from the woman, thus separating the “heroes” from the harmful bacteria based on an understanding of not just the laboratory result, not just scientific knowledge of the role of the microbes, but also the clinical presentation of the woman in question. The outcome of this exercise is what is called a laboratory report,” he explained.

Professor Obunge listed Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, Syphilis, Genital Warts, Genital Herpes, Non-specific Urethritis (NSU), Trichomoniasis, Hepatitis A, B and C, HIV, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), amongst others, as some of the sexually transmitted infections that cause further health complications for Nigerians.

“As a principal investigator, I was able to develop a new level of collaboration between the academic communities, non-governmental organisations, community-based organisations and policy-makers, leading to a better understanding of research, its ethics and implementation,” the Inaugural Lecturer disclosed. Professor Obunge added that he also played a major role in the upgrade of facilities in the Department of Medical Microbiology that has positioned it to play major roles in molecular biology-based research which has been attracting more collaborative research efforts.

“Rather than being judgmental about the reproductive health complications faced by women infected by STIs, we should counsel them on the dangers of risky sexual behaviour. Partner-Management will be of immense benefit to young adults, especially when some of the infected women do not know their status early enough to take action. I wish to advise women to avoid practices that assault their vagina,” Professor Obunge recommended.   

The foremost Medical Microbiologist further disclosed that he developed community mobilisation models and strategies, explaining that the lessons learned contributed to the global pool of resources in STI/HIV/AIDS-prevention strategies, research ethics and laboratory management. Professor Obunge told the gathering that he also facilitated and sponsored training for technical and academic staff of the University within and outside the country leading to increased skills set for independent research.

“The next decade of systems biology and epidemiology research on the vaginal microbiota is expected to lead to antibiotic-sparing strategies designed to manage, modulate, and restore a robust vaginal microenvironment and ultimately improve the health of the woman and her child,” Professor Obunge submitted. As part of the solutions to complications arising from women's reproductive health, he recommended that transfer of higher level molecular tools such as gene level sequencing should also form a major part of the linkage programmes of the University.

Professor Obunge paid glowing tribute to his mentors in the profession, including two former Vice-Chancellors, Emeriti Professors Kelsey Harrison and Nimi Briggs. “The University should consider establishing a reproductive health institute with multi-sectorial, multi-professional involvement to cover Medical Anthropology, Medical Sociology, Ethics, Molecular Research, Implementation Research and Medical Science,” recommending that 'implementation research' should be a key component of such an initiative.

Speaking at the end of the Lecture, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administration), Professor Regina Ogali, who represented the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ndowa Lale, commended Professor Obunge for a five-star performance. She described microbes as “tiny things we cannot see with the naked eyes, but they play very important roles in our daily lives. It is important that we understand how they work to our advantage.

We are happy that the Inaugural Lecturer decided to focus attention on women, because they are the most vulnerable segment of society in reproductive health issues. The grime statistics Professor Obunge rolled out are very worrisome and I agree with him that policy makers should focus attention on his recommendation of an 'implementation science' to remedy the situation,” Professor Ogali said.

Professor Ogali announced that the 150th Inaugural Lecture entitled, “Preventive Nephrology: Panacea to Ameliorating the Gruesome Burden of Kidney Failure in Sub-Saharan Africa,” would be delivered by Professor Friday Wokoma of the Department of Medicine in the Faculty of Clinical Sciences of the College of Health Sciences on Thursday, July 12, 2018.

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