Malaria increased COVID-19 resistance, according to research

Malaria - Rapid news GH

In contrast to the destruction on other continents, the COVID-19 pandemic had a much smaller impact in Africa due to the presence of malaria.

Scientists at the University of Ghana, Legon, came to that conclusion through their investigation.

The majority of the population was asymptomatic (without clinical symptoms), with COVID-19 and malaria symptoms being identical.

The research also found that repeated infections led to the development of clinical immunity against malaria parasites’ tolerance.

According to the study, tolerance developed by repeated exposure to malaria parasites aids in the fight against other diseases like COVID-19 that have a similar disease mechanism.

At his inaugural lecture at the university last Thursday, Professor Gordon Akanzuwine Awandare, the university’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs, revealed the research study’s findings.

Speaking on the subject of “How our immune system acquires tolerance to malaria and helped us survive COVID-19,” was Prof. Awandare, who oversaw a team that conducted the study.

Every academic who attained the title of professor throughout his or her tenure at the university was obligated to give an inaugural lecture. The lecture served as an essential part of the university’s agenda for the academic year.

It gives the institution a chance to recognize and highlight the academic success of its faculty and gives professors a chance to share their research with peers inside and beyond the university while also commemorating a significant achievement with loved ones.

“Malaria is not such a curse.
According to data, malaria-induced resistance to inflammatory stimulation shielded us from fatal COVID-19 and severe COVID-19, the doctor noted.

Prof. Awandare, who is also the founding director of the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP), cited a number of studies the team conducted to support their findings, saying the evidence showed that the immune system developed the ability to tolerate malaria parasites after repeated infections by preventing the cells from responding to additional stimulation.

Additionally, he added the research, which included COVID-19, demonstrated that immune cell reprogramming acquired by living in a malaria-endemic region shielded Ghanaians—and, by extension, all of Africa—against the onset of serious illness during infections with the SARS-CoV-2.

These results, he claimed, helped to clarify the dynamics of COVID-19 infections and death on a global scale.

In the beginning of December 2019, Wuhan, China, was the source of the coronavirus illness.

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) designated it a global pandemic, the first such classification since the H1N1 influenza pandemic was proclaimed in 2009.

According to Prof. Awandare, who cited the WHO, as of May 31, 2023, there were 767,364,883 confirmed instances of the disease worldwide, compared to 9,532,788 reported cases for Africa and 171,653 cases for Ghana. On the other hand, there were 6,938,353 confirmed deaths worldwide, while only 176,371 and 1,462 deaths, respectively, occurred in Ghana and Africa.

The research, he said, refuted a number of theories that had been put forth as the reasons for Africa’s low figures, including the notion that the continent’s weather made it difficult for the disease to survive among Africans. He acknowledged that the figures recorded for Africa and Ghana could be higher than the official figures.

Over 20,000 people were tested as part of the research, he claimed, and it was carried out in Burkina Faso, Nigeria, and Ghana.

Prof. Awandare urged Africa to be prepared for the upcoming pandemic and claimed that COVID-19 demonstrated that the continent has dependable scientists.

In order for organizations like the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) to train more people and produce more scientific works, he urged for the development of scientific capability and support.

Profile of Professor Awandare

Prof. Nana Aba Appiah Amfo, the university’s vice chancellor, identified Prof. Awandare as a biochemistry professor who was born in Bolga in 1974.

He earned his BSc and MPhil in Biochemistry from the University of Ghana while finishing his O-Levels at the Notre Dame Seminary Secondary School in Navrongo and his A-Levels at the Presbyterian Boys Secondary School in Legon.

Additionally, he received his PhD in Microbiology and Infectious Diseases from the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, the United States.

Prof. Awandare has experience as a research assistant at the Unite d’Immunologie Moléculaire des Parasites, Institut Pasteur, Paris, and the Immunology Unit of NMIMR, University of Ghana.

He was hired as a lecturer at the university’s Department of Biochemistry in 2002, and in December 2021, he was promoted to provost for academic and student affairs.

He has extensive knowledge of genetics, immunology, and cell and molecular biology. The majority of his research has focused on malaria.

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