Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research (KCCR) at the Kwame Nkrumah University of science and Technology, has been recognized as a ‘World Health Organization (WHO) Designated Diagnostic Centre’ for Buruli ulcer.
The recognition and development is seen as a major breakthrough as it marks its 20 years anniversary.
Professor Ellis Owusu-Dabo, immediate-past Director of the Centre, said the development makes KCCR part of WHO’s reference laboratory in Buruli management, adding that they had currently established a dry reagent-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for routine diagnosis of the disease. The Centre, he added, had also seen to the establishment of ‘Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA)’ - a diagnostic tool for confirmation of Buruli ulcer. Prof. Owusu-Dabo, also Dean of the School of Public Health of the University, who disclosed this to the Ghana News Agency (GNA), Kumasi, on the sidelines of a ceremony to commemorate the KCCR’s 20 years anniversary, said timely detection of the disease was very critical in managing it in a patient. “In fact, early diagnosis and treatment are the main strategy to minimize morbidity, costs and prevent long-term disability”, he noted. Buruli ulcer caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans, is a chronic debilitating disease that affects mainly the skin and sometimes the bone. The organism belongs to the family of bacteria that causes tuberculosis and leprosy, and the mode of transmission to humans remains unknown.
The majority of cases are reported from West and Central Africa, and in Ghana, most of the cases are endemic in the mining areas, including; Agoroyesum and Agogo, all in the Ashanti Region.
In 2015, 13 of the 15 countries that regularly report data to WHO reported nearly 2037 new cases.
Prof Owusu-Dabo indicated that Buruli ulcer often started as a painless swelling (nodule), explaining that it could also initially present as a large painless area of induration (plaque) or a diffuse painless swelling of the legs, arms or face (oedema).
Without treatment or sometimes during antibiotics treatment, the nodule, plaque or oedema will ulcerate within four weeks and occasionally, the bone is affected causing gross deformities.
Prof Owusu-Dabo advocated intensified education of the public, particularly those residing in mining communities to create the needed awareness about the disease.
The anniversary is being marked on the theme “20 Years of Research for Life”. KCCR was established through a collaborative effort between the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM) in Germany, KNUST and Ministry of Health. The vision was to advance research in tropical for the benefit of the society.
It had over the years been engaged in cutting-edge research to achieve a breakthrough in tropical medicine, and encompassing diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and filariasis, while conducting in-depth study on virology.
The programme had in attendance the German Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Christoph Retzlaff, Baffour Osei Hyeaman, Mawerehene, who represented the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, Prof Rolf Horstmann, Board Chairman of the BNITM, as well as Dr. Thomas Kruppa, former Director of the KCCR, representatives of the Ministry of Health and a cross-section of research scientists and other technocrats.