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Few COVID-19 Cases A Threat to Ongoing Research-Scientists

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Prof Pontiano Kaleebu, the Executive Director of Uganda Virus Research Institute, says that while the decrease in COVID-19 cases is a blessing in disguise, it is going to affect many ongoing studies. According to Kaleebu, at the time that many studies were reported, the country was reporting at least 200 cases a day.
Prof Pontiano Kaleebu, Executive Director UVRI

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Ugandan Scientists are worried about the impact of the decreasing cases of COVID-19 on their ongoing research on the pandemic. They are worried the decreasing COVID-19 cases are likely to stall the research or prolong it.

Uganda is currently researching on four COVID-19 vaccines and herbal treatment.  However, the country has been experiencing a decrease in COVID-19 cases since February 2021. On average 10 cases are reported daily, a big decrease from 100 cases reported daily between November 2020 and January, 2021 




Prof Pontiano Kaleebu, the Executive Director of Uganda Virus Research Institute, says that while the decrease in COVID-19 cases is a blessing in disguise, it is going to affect many ongoing studies. According to Kaleebu, at the time that many studies were reported, the country was reporting at least 200 cases a day.  

He however, says that many scientists are struggling to find participants with an average of 10 cases reported nationwide.

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According to Kaleebu, if the decrease in cases continues scientists will be forced to extend the ongoing research, which will increase the costs of the study. At least 200 people need to be involved in the ongoing vaccine research for each of the four vaccines. Instead of taking a few weeks to get volunteers, Kaleebu says it might take a month or more due to the dwindling numbers.

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Last year, Uganda was involved in talks with other countries where AstraZeneca vaccine trials were carried out. However, due to fewer cases compared to other African countries like South Africa, Uganda could not take part in the study. 

According to investigators developing the drug-UBV-01N, animal trials are ongoing. However, they plan on getting human volunteers from Mulago National Referral Hospital, which is currently difficult because of the closure of the COVID-19 treatment ward at the hospital.   Dr. Monica Musenero, the Presidential Advisor on Epidemics and also the leader of the team investigating the herbal treatment, says scientists might be forced to pause ongoing works and wait until the numbers increase.   

"If the current situation persists, we might have to put on hold research and wait for an increase in the cases. Because while phase 1 trials do not need active cases, phase two and three normally do. So, the best option will be to put it on hold," Dr. Musenero said.

Musenero quickly adds that even if the studies are halted, this will only be temporary since scientists forecast that the world will have to live with COVID-19 until next year.   "We are expecting to get a surge in the number of reported cases soon with a change in the temperatures. When we experience an increase, we shall continue with research," Musenero explained.