Seminar Shares Insights on Silent-Killer Non-Communicable Diseases
The Discipline of Clinical Anatomy’s Morphology and Andrology Group (MAG) recently held a stimulating seminar, sharing insights into why current research should address the upsurge of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
The four main types of NCDs are cardiovascular diseases (such as heart attacks and stroke), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructed pulmonary disease and asthma) and diabetes. Recent statistics from the World Health Organization reveal that NCDs kill more than 36 million people each year with nearly 80 percent of these deaths occurring in low-and middle-income countries.
UKZN Senior Lecturer in Clinical Anatomy Dr Onyemaechi Azu said it was alarming that cardiovascular diseases and cancer accounted for 17 million and 7.6 million deaths per annum respectively. Developing countries were most affected.
The global burden of disease was said to be shifting from infectious diseases such as TB and HIV to NCDs, with chronic conditions like cardiovascular diseases (including hypertension and stroke), cancers and diabetes mellitus now being the chief causes of death globally.
Azu said NCDs could be caused by random genetic abnormalities, lifestyle or the environment. Autoimmune diseases, trauma, fractures, mental disorders, malnutrition, poisoning and hormonal conditions are also listed as NCDs. ‘Without action, 52 million people will die each year from NCDs by 2030,’ said Azu.
Research conducted by postgraduate students under MAG is geared to address these concerns, particularly in the light of South African population-based surveys of the early 1990s which show a high prevalence of hypertension and obesity.
With the high prevalence of HIV in countries like South Africa, there is also concern over the fact that highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) often have side effects reportedly leading to an increase in NCDs among patients. MAG recognises that cardiovascular complications in HIV-infected populations have not been properly addressed in the advent of HAART and its projects are currently providing experimental models of possible putative mechanisms for this connection and some of the research work has been published in the Journal of Andrology (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24919589; http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.2164/jandrol.112.016758/full) and Andologia (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/and.12233/pdf)
The NCDs – cardiovascular diseases, cancers and diabetes mellitus – have been identified by MAG as a triad of silent killers because they are strongly linked to the prevalence of HIV in the local context.
A myriad of ongoing studies being conducted by MAG covers aspects of structural anatomy and morphometry using latest technology (fluorescence and electron microscopy), PCR and PCR-based
analysis as well as adopting high-end stereological analyses by a cohort of students (Honours to postdoctoral fellows) sharing research insights on the triad.
The discipline continues to host monthly meetings at the University’s Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine campus.