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25.03.2008 Health

Auto-immune diseases in GhanaNoguchi Memorial Institute to begin researchSharecare Ghana holds inaugural meeting

By Accra Mail
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The Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) is to begin a study into auto-immune diseases in Ghana.

This was disclosed by officials of the institute at the weekend to members of Sharecare Ghana, a support group and association of people with auto-immune diseases and their families in Ghana.

The study being spearheaded by Dr. Margaret Armar-Klemesu, a nutrition expert, head of the Department of Nutrition at NMIMR and Dr. Michael Ofori, an immunologist is as a result of earlier discussions between members of the association and NMIMR on the seeming rise of auto-immune conditions in the country.

Officials of Noguchi agreed that a study needs to be done to establish the numbers as the basis for fuller research into the prevention and possible control of auto-immune diseases.

At the meeting, the Noguchi officials outlined the various diseases classified as auto-immune and the fact that they affect more women than men, but are more dangerous when they do affect men.

Members of the association welcomed the idea of research and said this initiative is long overdue. They said auto-immune diseases should be covered under the National Health Insurance Scheme since they all pay the NHIS tax directly or indirectly.

Founded in 1979, the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research is considered to be β€œthe leading biomedical research institute in Ghana.”

Sharecare Ghana is the initiative of Nana Yaa Agyeman, herself diagnosed with Devic's, Disease, a close relation of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and has since attracted many members with similar or related conditions.

Auto-immune diseases and diseases of the central nervous system often don't show a clear pattern of symptoms and are therefore difficult to diagnose. The symptoms may include some or all of the following: numbness, vomiting, loss of body co-ordination and muscular spasms, vision impairment or loss, fatigue, tingling sensation, weight changes, depression, constipation, diarrhea and others.

Auto-immune diseases include the following: Rheumatoid Arthritis, Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM), Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Transverse Myelitis, Neuromyelitis Optica (Devic's Disease), Optic Neuritis, Lupus and others. Ghana's healthcare delivery system is more geared towards the treatment of diseases like malaria, HIV/AIDS, the fiver killer diseases in children with very little attention being paid to other equally debilitating ailments.

There is practically only one practicing neurologist in the country, whose work load gets heavier by the day as a result of the rising numbers of people being diagnosed with auto-immune diseases. Please see ADM editorial.

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