New grant supports child neurology and epilepsy researchers in Nigeria

Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH) and Bayero University Kano (BUK) in Kano, Nigeria, and Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health (VIGH) have a long history of successful NIH-funded collaborations in childhood brain disorders.

These three institutions are partnering on a new $1.2 million, five-year training program funded by the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under Fogarty’s Chronic, Non-Communicable Diseases and Disorders Across the Lifespan Training Program.

The Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH)-Bayero University Kano (BUK)-Vanderbilt: Developing Future Leaders in Child Neurology and Epilepsy Research (ABV) program will build upon a solid foundation of successful NIH-funded collaborations between Vanderbilt, BUK and AKTH in child neurology and epilepsy. The program will develop a cadre of physician-scientists in northern Nigeria — a region with over 100 million people, over half of whom are children.

Africa has an urgent need to research the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of epilepsy and childhood neurological disorders and implement diagnostic and treatment services. 

The burden of epilepsy and child neurological disorders in Africa is very high. Most children with treatable neurological disorders in sub-Saharan Africa (e.g., epilepsy) are neither diagnosed nor treated. Large-scale epidemiology studies, clinical trials, development of diagnostic technologies, and implementation science research in Africa are required to close this knowledge gap.  

Dr. Trevathan emphasized the capacity building and collaborative foundation of the ABV program, which he says will “focus on the brain disorders impacting children in the Hausa speaking world, which should also establish leaders in child neurology research for the next generation.” Professor Iliyasu, a leader in public health and medical education in West Africa, added “ABV is designed to also prepare the next leaders of ABV." 

Based in Kano, the hub of northern Nigeria and the Hausa-speaking world, ABV will provide research training and mentoring for junior and mid-career physician investigators to enhance their skills in child neurology or epilepsy research. Vanderbilt faculty and faculty from northern Nigerian academic medical centers and universities will train and mentor a cadre of investigators from major cities in northern Nigeria. 

These long-term trainees will form the first significant child neurology and epilepsy research collaborative in Africa. Different training levels designed to meet each junior investigator’s needs, ranging from a full-time training commitment to individual courses and focused mentoring, will be delivered.

Program leadership includes Zubairu Iliyasu, MBBS, PhD, professor of Public Health at AKTH/BUK; Edwin Trevathan, MD, MPH, professor of Pediatrics and Neurology, Director of VIGH; Umar A. Sabo, MBBS, MPH, consultant pediatric neurologist and lecturer at AKTH/BUK; Fatimah Tsiga-Ahmed, MBBS, M.Sc., FWACP, post-graduate coordinator, Department of Community Medicine at BUK.  

Dr. Sabo, whose research as a VECD Fogarty training fellow developed the preliminary data for the Childhood Status Epilepticus and Epilepsy Determinants of Outcome (SEED R01 NS118483) cohort study in Kano, a major NIH-funded program, emphasized that “the current NIH-funded (RO1) projects such as SEED will serve as a foundation for new investigators to launch their own research.” 

Dr. Fatimah Tsiga-Ahmed, who will focus on ABVs enhancement of curriculum at Bayero University Kano, along with additional training opportunities in clinical trials, neurological diseases, neuroepidemiology, genomics, and other topics, believes that “ABV-supported curriculum expansions will help students develop a foundation for their entire research careers.”

This work is supported by the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number 1 D43 TW011949-01.

Pictured: Umar A. Sabo, MBBS, MPH, Abdurrahman Abba Sheshe, MBBS, FMCS, FICS, Edwin Trevathan, MD, MPH, Fatimah Tsiga-Ahmed, MBBS, MSc, FWACP