The University of Energy and Natural Resources (UENR) has graduated its first PhD student, Mr. Kenneth Bentum Otabil.
Mr Otabil graduated from the 1st Special Congregation held in Sunyani with a PhD in Environmental Engineering Management. The university has awarded nine other Masters Degrees. Mr Bentum valued the encouragement of the university’s management and staff that contributed to the attainment of his goal.
Mr Otabil successfully defended his thesis earlier in September 2019, which is part of the criteria of the university for students studying different postgraduate programs.
Giving the background on his thesis; “Optimising the Esperanza Window Trap to Monitor the Transmission Dynamics of River Blindness in Hypo Endemic Communities,” Mr. Bentum said according to the World Health Organisation and CDC in 2019, river blindness was the world’s second-largest infectious cause of blindness after Trachoma, which caused by the nematode Onchocerca volvulus and transmitted by black flies of the genus Simulium.
He said that the disease was endemic in about 37 countries, and 126 million people were at risk, and that globally, 37 million people get infected, 500,000 visually impaired, and 270,000 get blind, with 1.5 million Disability Adjusted Life Years lost annually, and 99% of the burden of the disease rests on sub-Saharan Africa.
Mr Bentum referred to Osei-Atweneboana et al. (2007) and the Ghana Health Service (2008) that after decades of control, River Blindness in Ghana continues to be a public health concern, indicating that a population of 4.7 million in 3,204 communities is at risk of infection.
On the research problem, Mr. Bentum stated that river blindness has been earmarked for elimination by 2040, but new monitoring tools are needed.
He said other research literature suggested that there was insufficient monitoring of control programs in the wake of resistance to ivermectin, no option to remove human baits for catching vectors for disease monitoring (ethical concerns), inadequate numbers of black flies captured when human baits were used in areas with low vector densities, and inadequate models to test for impact
He further claimed that the reason for his work was “to resolve the need for frequent monitoring of the burden of onchocerciasis following resistance to Ivermectin, an effective trap to replace human baits in trapping black fly vectors,” saying that the Esperanza Window Traps (EWTs) was promising but needs optimisation in design, applicability, cost-effectiveness and reproducibility.
Mr Bentum added that there wass the need for models to relate trap data to data from human baits in order to make them useful in control programmes, stating that “few published works had reported on the ability of traps to monitor the transmission indices of Onchocerciasis, with lack of models establishing the relationship between climatic variables and transmission indices of Onchocerciasis, according to Hendy et al., 2017.”
According to Mr. Bentum, he adopted a cross-sectional design as the methodology of his study, using three communities (Tanfiano, Senya and Kokompe) in the Nkoranza North District of Ghana.
The population was randomly sampled by selecting 114 people for the study, and were examined for the presence of parasites and clinical manifestations of Onchocerciasis.
Mr. Bentum said his study showed that river blindness persisted in the human population of the study areas despite several years of mass drug administration, with ivermectin, infection with Onchocerciasis and commonly associated clinical manifestations of the disease in the study communities.
He recommended that “this finding calls for a greater urgency for research and development, aimed at discovering new or repurposed anti-filarial agents that will augment ivermectin if global onchocerciasis eradication targets are to be achieved.”