I want to laud the efforts of the federal and state governments of Nigeria in the fight against COVID-19 so far, particularly the NCDC. The current decision to begin a gradual easing of the lock down by President Buhari is an indication that the government is concerned about both saving lives as well as source of livelihood of Nigerians. The government is heavily leaning on on curfews, social distancing, hand washing/sanitizers and use of face mask to minimize spread of the virus as the nation gradually takes the dicey steps towards returning to normalcy.
You may agree with me that we have so far been doing a ‘copy and paste’ of standard WHO guidelines with little or no local content. Just like in a football match, we are just adopting a defensive formation and tactics against COVID-19. If we must win this battle, we have to also add some offense to our approach.
When Nigerians go out in May, most will be armed with sanitizers and facemasks -and of course with the confidence that they are protected from the virus- even though the WHO has warned that facemask has limited capacity to protect. Moreover, the fact that most of these masks will be home made or locally produced with fabrics instead of facemask with efficient material has called for additional measures- local content strategy- to deal with this situation.
In addition to the measures already put in place by the government, I want to suggest the chewing of fresh garlic and or with ginger by Nigerians as they go about their daily routines in addition to wearing mask and social distancing. Yes, garlic and ginger! I get miffed by efforts to discourage this in some quarters. How can some scientists be discouraging people from chewing garlic and ginger telling them it will not prevent the infection with COVID-19? Has any of such persons making such spurious claims published the findings of studies of in vitro or in vivo assay they know or conducted that suggest that ginger and garlic extracts are ineffective against this virus? Let them cite such publications. On the other hand, findings of the antiviral activities of ginger and garlic abound in the scientific literature (Naithani et al., 2010; Chang et al., 2013; Shojai et al., 2016). According to Shojai et al. (2013), in vitro assay of garlic extracts against Infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) a type of coronavirus, showed inhibitory effect on IBV in chicken embryo. My point is that it’s better to supplement wearing of face mask with chewing of garlic and ginger in moderate amount than to wear face mask and chew nothing. On a hilarious note, the smell of garlic in your breath should encourage others to give you enough ‘social distance spacing’. Besides, chewing of garlic and or ginger can provide a placebo effect that is better than nothing.
I also want health providers to inculcate plant-based treatment in management of this disease. Eminent patriotic scientists from the University of Ibadan recently presented a brilliant review of the scientific literature with respect to the respiratory signs and symptoms ameliorating potentials of extracts of Euphobia hirta plant readily found in some parts of Nigeria when used to locally treat respiratory infections. This plant according to ethnobotanical survey reports in the scientific literature, is used to manage respiratory disorders similar to those found in mild COVID-19 cases. They even suggest that if applied properly to manage COVID-19 cases, it can reduce the need for ventilators. Or are we going to ignore such because a prophet has no honour in his village? This is war and nothing must be left to chance! We have to throw everything we got at COVID-19 like the desperate men that we are.
I also want to suggest that our pharmaceutical companies come up with mass production of spray solutions that can be sprayed on surfaces and on locally made face mask that is capable of inhibiting the virus when it makes contact with such. A good candidate is the monoglyceride; Monocaprin which has been shown to have antibacterial and virucidal activity against a plethora of enveloped RNA viruses (Thormar et., al., 1987; Thormar et al., 1999; Kristmundsdottir et a., 1999; Thorgeirsdottir et al., 2003; Thorgeirsdottir et al.,2005; Patlolla et al., 2019). It is relatively non toxic to humans in the concentrations used and even used as a food additive (Ma et al., 2018). Because of its limited solubility in water, monocaprin can be solubilized with Tween 20 (polysorbate 20) as described by Thorgeirsdottir et al. (2003). Tween 20 is relatively non toxic to humans with detergent like properties which coupled with the virucidal activity of monocaprin can inactivate COVID-19 when it falls on face mask worn or other surfaces. Amphipathic nature of detergents and soaps makes them capable of disrupting the macromolecular integrity or structure of viruses especially enveloped RNA viruses like COVID-19 inactivating them in the process. That’s is why hand washing with soap is prescribed by the WHO. In theory, it might even be beneficial to soak a washed face mask in clean soap or detergent solution and allowed to dry before reuse rather than reuse a washed and water rinsed one. Theoretically, when expectorated droplets containing corona virus falls on the mask, it will be subject to the detergent based antimicrobial activity of the dried soap or detergent and a significant viral load may get denatured or in activated. This like I said is theory that’s is based on facts.
In summary, my point is that as the lock down is about to be eased, the policy makers should think outside the box and let’s not rely on washing of hands with soap and water, social distancing (which we all know is hardly working in our setting) or wearing of face masks only. We should fortify these measures with the ones already highlighted in this write-up and who knows, we may come out of the woods earlier than projected.
This one too shall pass..
I am your countryman
Segun Solomon Ogundapo
AIFPU, Ebonyi State