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HomeLatest newsLivestock bred with growth promoters unhealthy for consumption – Prof Adetunji

Livestock bred with growth promoters unhealthy for consumption – Prof Adetunji



Adetunji Prof

A professor of Veterinary Public Health at the University of Ibadan, Victoria Adetunji, speaks to OLUFEMI OLANIYI about her career, family and related issues

What other roles do you perform at the university apart from teaching?

I am currently the Chairperson of Animal Use and Care Ethics Committee and I also coordinate the University of Ibadan COVID-19 Emergency Response Committee. My current research activities on containment of antimicrobial resistance, a global public health problem, earned me  the position of the Chairperson of Fleming Alumni Network, with the objective of creating further opportunities for fellows, supporting and sustaining the main Fleming objective of antimicrobial resistance containment in all participating regions/countries internationally.

Why did you study Veterinary Medicine knowing full well that many students prefer human medicine?

I grew up on a university campus in northern Nigeria where I was influenced by my father’s part-time livestock-keeping activities. We kept pigs and poultry in our compound at the university, and veterinary doctors used to come and treat the animals. This stimulated my interest and prompted me to study Veterinary Medicine.

Were there challenges on your way when you started as a vet student?

I had challenges especially at the 200 level. There seemed to be a very wide gap from 100 level to 200 level, having to tackle very voluminous courses like veterinary anatomy, physiology, biochemistry etc. I stabilised by the clinical year with consistency in reading. I remembered reading five hours daily.

Were you scared of touching or going close to any animal?

Not at all, mainly because I had experienced caring for animals from a very young age.

How are you coping with your job as a lecturer with family demands?

It was very demanding when my children were still young. However, what helped me was apportioning time and prioritising both my career and family activities. I keep a diary where I highlight my to-do list daily, so I don’t lag behind on any. I attend to the most difficult issues first.

Do you think women are better managers?

I believe an emotionally stable woman will be a better manager, most especially with the added advantage of women being able to multitask in addition to their God-given ability for empathy.

As Chairperson of COVID-19 committee in UI, what were you able to achieve as a committee?

We raised support for the empowerment of the University Health Services (UHS, Jaja Clinic) by requesting aid from the Oyo State Government for vaccination of all willing individuals in the university community as well as providing access to testing and links to government task forces for COVID-19. Also, the committee facilitated the strengthening of the biosafety and biosecurity measures of UHS and the UI-COVID Task Force.  Through the efforts of the committee, the Oyo State Government provided sanitisers, face masks, Personal Protective Equipment and thermometers.

Containment of the pandemic was achieved by issuing frequent communiqués to the university community and conducting on-site inspection of hotspots, such as churches, business centres, car packs, etc, for compliance monitoring. Additional measures were partial lockdown and social distancing at the zoological and botanical gardens, museums, sports and presentation venues, worship and commercial centres, in compliance with state, national and international directives; hand washing and sanitisation at the school gates and at the entrances to homes, offices and other public spaces within the university community. The committee also actively decontaminated high-risk areas and areas where positive COVID-19 cases had been detected.  The committee was inspired to provide face masks to the low-income communities at the University of Ibadan and its immediate environs. This was executed with financial support from the university management.

To ensure a better coverage and impact of the committee’s activities, a GIS expert was invited to delineate the University of Ibadan and the University College using GIS mapping and also to create a GIS platform for real-time reporting by the task force supervisors.

The COVID-19 Task Force, an arm of the committee, was inaugurated on September 16, 2021.  The task force supervisors were selected across the whole university with proper representation of all units for proper coverage. The COVID-19 Task Force Supervisors were saddled directly with monitoring and reporting of people’s compliance with COVID-19 preventive guidelines. This task force was trained and financially motivated for one month activities by the management at the critical stage of the pandemic to support data and mobility. The platform is accessible.

Many Nigerians are scared of taking COVID-19 vaccines. What do you think is the reason for this?

Myths about the vaccine are the major reasons. For example, one of the myths is that the natural immunity I get from being sick with COVID-19 is better than the immunity I get from COVID-19 vaccination. Also, there was speculation that the vaccine contained microchips for tracking people. These speculations/myths are not true. The fact remains that COVID-19 vaccination is a safer and more dependable way to build immunity to COVID-19 than getting sick with COVID-19. It has also been proven to reduce the impact of the disease in case of an infection.

COVID-19 infections recently increased; what do you think caused this?

The likely reasons behind the new surge could be due to a relaxation of the COVID-19 preventive protocols. We have had very low incidence rates due to herd immunity and vaccination uptake, which was the reason for the relaxation. However, I would emphasise the need for adhering to the COVID-19 protocols as a new normal.

Are there vaccines for monkeypox and marburg?

Monkeypox is a viral infection caused by the monkeypox virus. It’s milder, less serious, relative to the virus that causes smallpox. If you’ve been exposed to it, within three weeks you’ll notice flu-like symptoms along with a rash that might look like pimples or a blister.

There’s no specific treatment or cure for monkeypox. Some smallpox vaccines can prevent monkeypox, including the ACAM2000 and Jynneos vaccines. These vaccines can be used to prevent monkeypox because smallpox and monkeypox are caused by related viruses. Health care providers may suggest that people who have been exposed to monkeypox get vaccinated.

The filoviruses, Ebola virus and Marburg virus are among the most dangerous pathogens in the world. Both viruses cause viral haemorrhagic fever, with case fatality rates of up to 90 per cent. Historically, filovirus outbreaks has been relatively small, with only a few hundred cases reported. However, the recent West African Ebola virus outbreak underscored the threat that filoviruses pose. The three year-long outbreaks resulted in 28,646 Ebola virus infections and 11,323 deaths. The lack of food and drug administration-licensed vaccines and antiviral drugs hindered early efforts to contain the outbreak. In response, the global scientific community has spurred the advanced development of many filovirus vaccine candidates. Some vaccine candidates are under clinical trials

Sex with dogs and other animals appears to be on the increase. Can this also lead to increase in rate of diseases transmitted from animals to humans?

Animals incubate diseases which are zoonotic, transmissible to man. We have research evidence that also confirm transmission of some pathogens from humans to animals. Bestiality activities will definitely increase zoonotic diseases if not curbed.

Nigerians buy cows and other animals raised by herdsmen who are constantly on the move for parties and these animals are usually not certified fit for human consumption by experts. Do you think there is a danger in this?

Slaughtering of food animals is to be done at designated abattoirs and slaughter slabs all over the country. Veterinarians have, as their professional role, the responsibility of doing both ante-mortem and post-mortem inspections. Animals incubating some certain diseases like anthrax identified during ante-mortem should not even be slaughtered at all. Doing otherwise will contaminate the environment and expose more people to this pathogen. At post-mortem, judgment by the veterinarian is either partial condemnation or complete condemnation in case of a generalised tuberculous lesion, for instance. Uninspected and uncertified carcasses and tissue pose very grave public health consequence, with the unsuspecting consumers at risk.

Do you suggest ranching to open grazing and what are the health benefits especially to humans?

Of great benefit to humans is the production of healthier animals. The ranching system will enable the cattle to be well-fed and receive maximum health attention from veterinarians. The system also prevents, to a large extent hazards that could affect their health. Stress from continuous trekking is avoided, thereby affording the build-up of the mass of meat and more milk production. Opportunities for genetic modifications of local breeds to produce cows that will adapt to the Nigerian environment are also associated with ranching. On the other hand, the open grazing does not afford these opportunities. Furthermore, the animals are predisposed to respiratory tract infections like the Foot and Mouth Disease because of moisture and humidity in the South. Open grazing also exposes the animals to infection due to unguarded contacts between animals from different sources at watering and feeding points, thus potentiating disease transmission among the animals and to humans.

Although ranching system comes with the responsibility of provision of social amenities and support for herdsmen, it is the way to go.

There are injections given to livestock to make them bigger. What is the effect of this on human being who consume animals injected with this drug?

These injections are called growth promoters or hormones. Pituitary Growth Hormone has considerable potential as performance enhancing drug that increase muscle mass (an anabolic agent) in animal production. Animals treated with GH will grow faster (i.e. deposit protein), require less feed per unit of body weight gain, and will have less carcass fat than untreated animals. The hormone residues in meat results into adverse effect on human health, such as disrupt in human hormone balance, causing developmental problems, interfering with the reproductive system and can even lead to the development of breast, prostate or colon cancer. Antimicrobials are also used by farmers for growth promotion effects by adding them to feedstuffs at a dose lower than the therapeutic dose. Induction of resistant bacteria/microbes and the disruption of normal human intestinal flora are major concerns of human health from antimicrobial growth promoters. This practice is an abuse of drug and should be discouraged.

What are the roles of veterinary medicine in public health?

The aspect of Veterinary Medicine that addresses public health is Veterinary Public Health. The World Health Organisation defines VPH as ‘the sum of all contributions to the physical, mental and social well-being of humans through an understanding and application of veterinary science’. Thus, the veterinary profession contributes to the improvement of human and public health by improving agriculture and food systems, advancing biomedical and comparative medical research, preventing and addressing zoonotic diseases, enhancing environmental and ecosystem health, and helping to manage global public health challenges.

Veterinary Public Health experts are key competent stakeholders in preventive medicine, population health (both animal health and human health), parasitology, zoonoses, and epidemiology, among others. Tackling major zoonotic disease outbreaks and trending public health issues, including the current increasing trend in antimicrobial resistance, requires the One Health approach, which is multidisciplinary, involving the veterinarians and other related disciplines. Veterinary Public Health experts play a critical role in contributing to the budding public health programmes in government and private institutions bringing to the fore their expertise in epidemiology of zoonoses and interactions at the animal, human and environment interface. The history and tradition of the profession always have focused on protecting and improving both animal and human health.

Sexual harassment cases seem not to be common in UI. What is the university doing to achieve this?

The University of Ibadan has zero tolerance for sexual harassment; as such, cases are very rare. In line with UI’s commitment to transformative processes in higher education, the university has produced a sexual harassment policy aimed at cultivating and maintaining a working and learning environment that reflects respect for the dignity of all members of our community, thereby stimulating and supporting an environment free of sexual harassment and gender-based violence. Although I did not face any related issue, speaking up to the designated committee while the system ensures there is no witch-hunting will go a long way to controlling this menace.

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