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A group of seven scientists have announced that they have found excessive deposits of protein in the brain of each Nodding Syndrome victims. In an article about the breakthrough in Acta Neuropathologica-Springer, a respected peer-reviewed journal on neuropathology, the researchers noted:

“In conclusion, we have shown that the epidemic neglected tropical disease known as Nodding Syndrome (NS) is a tauopathy.” Tauopathy refers to a neurodegenerative disease linked to deposition of insoluble proteins in the brain. We hold news about this specific description of the nature and presentation of a condition that has killed and immobilised countless children in northern Uganda for years as a momentous.

It places the scientific community closer to finding the actual cause and, optimistically, the definite treatment. Uganda, and invested researchers, will have to walk, not just talk, this path of hope. This is why demand that the government proffer commensurate funding for investigations into the origin of Nodding Syndrome.

The condition makes victims get sporadic seizures, remain underweight and with diminished immunity, drip saliva and nod uncontrollably, leading to accidents and deaths. This ineradicable manifestation has clawed back otherwise significant healthcare gains in the country. It has inspired criticism by leaders in northern Uganda that the government neglects the plight of hapless children.

The central government’s support to centres where Nodding Syndrome victims received some form of treatment has been inadequate or sporadic that the hubs closed when external financiers pulled out or ran out of resources. I
t is our firm position that the health and wellbeing of Ugandans should, as a principle, not be surrendered to foreigners to insure. Higher productivity and creation of a nation’s wealth is predicated on a healthy and skilled population.

This is why the government must never totter in committing resources for public health promotion, curative care and medical research. We note with alarm that our leaders have underperformed, if not entirely digressed, more than complied.

The research culminating in the latest breakthrough in understanding Nodding Syndrome was funded by the Canada-based Raymond Chang Foundation.

Previously, the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) paid for transportation and analysis of samples extracted from Nodding Syndrome victims at its laboratories in Atlanta. When CDC couldn’t, Uganda’s Health ministry could only afford air ticket for the scientists while World Health Organisation provided per diem!

Four of the seven researchers, who made a breakthrough on Nodding Syndrome, are Ugandans. We, as a country, have innate flair. Let the government harness this potential and invest in high-level research to resolve one of Uganda’s intractable problems.

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