Resident doctors’ strike continues as govt fails to meet demands • Jonathan promises special fund for medical facilities • IVF babies more likely to get cancer, study finds • ‘Malaria vaccine reduces disease in infants by 25 per cent’

EXPECTATIONS that resident doctors would end their week-old nationwide industrial action after their National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Abuja Tuesday have been dashed following the Federal Governments’ inability to meet their demands.
Chairman of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), Lagos University Teaching Hospital chapter, Dr. Emeka Ugwu, told The Guardian yesterday on telephone that after two days of deliberations by the NARD NEC, the members agreed to continue the action because government has not met their minimum demands.
“We don’t want to call of the strike because government promised to meet our demands by October 11, 2013, and resume the industrial action afterwards if they don’t. We decided to wait for the government to do the right thing before we call off.
However, President Goodluck Jonathan has pledged that the Federal Government would create a special intervention fund to facilitate the rapid establishment of more centres of medical excellence across the country.
In an audience with a delegation from the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in Abuja yesterday, President Jonathan described the recommendation of a special fund with low interest loans for the establishment of state-of-the-art medical facilities as a creative idea that would receive appropriate consideration from government.
According to a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, he assured the delegation, led by NMA President, Dr. Osahon Enabulele, that he was determined to do all within his powers to positively resolve all issues leading to the current labour disputes in both sectors.
And with about 25,000 Nigerian medical consultants currently practising in the United States alone, as confirmed by President Barack Obama, Jonathan said his government was determined to correct the anomaly of Nigeria being so strong in human capacity in medicine and yet unable to treat many of its sick people in its own hospitals.
Enabulele had earlier assured the President of the NMA’s support for his administration’s national transformation and the proposed national dialogue.
Meanwhile, frightening risks of childhood cancer, leukaemia, cancers of the brain and central nervous system have blighted advancements in aided conception through Assisted Reproductive Technique (ART)/In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), a recent study has shown.
The study, published last week in the journal, Fertility and Sterility, found that children born through IVF are a third more likely to get cancer, thereby posing fresh damning challenges for couples with conception difficulties and those in quest of “designer babies,” even as scientists record major breakthrough in prenatal screening.
“Designer Baby” refers to the use of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to select desired qualities of a child. The Danish scientists said those born after fertility treatments were 33 per cent more likely to have childhood cancer, 65 per cent more likely to develop leukaemia and 88 per cent more likely to develop cancers of the brain and central nervous system.
The research reviewed 25 studies from 12 developed countries, including the United States (U.S.), United Kingdom (UK), Denmark, France and Israel, from 1990 to 2010. It suggested that fertility treatment might change the way certain genes function when passed from parent to child in a process known as “genomic imprinting.”
According to the Danish researchers, these faults in genes are linked to childhood cancers, and these changes could be triggered by aspects of fertility treatment such as exposure to hormones, semen preparation, freezing embryos, growth conditions of embryos or delayed insemination. But they could not rule out the increased risk resulting from parents’ infertility rather than the treatment.
Nevertheless, Nigerian joint pioneer of IVF and Medical Director of Medical Art Centre (MART), Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, has faulted the study. He said on telephone yesterday: “We have to look at the number and population, what was used to stimulate the eggs.
“Nobody has come with specific document. May be there is already a history of cancer in that population, but so far, no study has shown this in the United States. It is very possible that the incidence of cancer was already high in the population.”
Meanwhile, a vaccine against malaria could be introduced in less than two years after British drug company, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), conducted a trial that successfully cut the number of cases of the disease in African children.
The data from GSK’s trial demonstrated that the most clinically advanced malaria vaccine candidate – known as RTS,S – continued to protect young children and infants from clinical malaria up to 18 months after the vaccination was administered.
Over a year and half, the RTS,S vaccine was found to almost halve the number of malaria cases in children aged 17 months to five years at first vaccination. The study of over 15,000 children found that the vaccine reduced the number of malaria cases in infants aged six to 12 weeks by a quarter.
Earlier this year, British research on over 100,000 children born after fertility treatment found they had no increased risk of cancer. Malaria, a tropical parasitic disease transmitted by mosquitoes, claims 660,00 lives a year, most of them children in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Also, a “hugely ethically controversial” decision allowing an American company to patent a technology for the creation of “designer” babies has been criticised by ethicists.
U.S. authorities issued a patent last week to the genetics company, 23andMe, for a “family traits inheritance calculator,” which can predict from saliva sample aspects of a baby’s appearance and risk of certain diseases.
However, scientists have described the decision as a “serious mistake” because the technology could also be used by IVF patients to select sperm and eggs to produce certain characteristics, opening the doors to “designer babies.”
Similarly, parliamentarians have condemned plans for Britain to become the first country to create babies using DNA from three parents, though the treatment, according to reports, can reduce the risk of children having potentially fatal illnesses.
Nevertheless, the eight MPs were among 34 members of the Council of Europe, the human rights group comprising European politicians, who described it as “incompatible with human dignity and international law.”