South Africa faces unique challenges amidst the covid-19 outbreak, so the contextualization of research is important.

The Wits Journal of Clinical Medicine has released the first African-based scientific research on covid-19, on Monday, April 20. The research appears in a special edition of the journal which only took three weeks to produce amongst a number of Wits academics and scientists.

“Covid-19 is a problem affecting the entire world, and South Africa faces unique issues specific to the South African population,” says P.rofessor Pravin Manga, the editor-in-chief of the journal and Emeritus professor at the school of clinical medicine at Wits University.

The research looks at issues such as Covid-19 and HIV-positives persons, ethical dilemmas that could arise in treating covid-19 and the strategy of herd immunity within the South African context.

Professor Guy Richards, an Emeritus professor of critical care at Wits, contributed to articles in the publication discussing possible treatment methods for patients with covid-19.

Richards says, “The aim is to catch patients in the earlier phases and initiate anti-inflammatory treatment therapy to treat the consequences of the virus and prevent the progression.” The disease is said trigger an immune response which may lead to inflammation and organ failure in some cases.

The possible impact of covid-19 on South Africa’s large HIV-positive population of approximately 7.7 million people, is also discussed. HIV, which comprises the immune system is one of the co-morbidities which, in combination with covid-19, can be fatal.

“It doesn’t appear that patients who have HIV are at greater risk,” says Professor Feldman, a pulmonology professor at Wits. But, he cautions, “I don’t think we know enough yet. We need to remain vigilant and ensure that people who have HIV take all the necessary precautions.” One of these precautions is adherence to the prescribed medicine regimen.

The ethical issues that crop up in treatment covid-19 include having to decide who to treat first when the case load becomes too high and resources are limited. Professor Kevin Behrens, the director of the Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics at Wits said, “It’s important to have guidelines set before healthcare workers are faced with difficult ethical decisions to protect them from ethical distress.”

The scientific publication was produced with the intention of assisting South African healthcare professionals in their treatment of covid-19 cases. Richards says, “The issue gives a framework for management of patients looking at many of the issues associated with covid-19.”

Manga said one of the reasons for the special edition was to counter the vast amount of misinformation circulating on social media. “We need science behind covid-19 management in this country,”he said.

The reception to the special issue on covid-19 has proven successful. Manga says, “The issue has had national reach.”

Dealing with new virus means that there is such a lot of research still to be done. Behrens says, “There are areas of research that we (South Africa) maybe aren’t doing enough of and there needs to be a think tank to find these gaps.”

The article can accessed here.

FEATURED IMAGE: Academics and scientists from Wits University had published a special edition of the Wits Journal of Clinical Medicine tackling issues around the treatment of covid-19. Photo: Catia De Castro