Health research scientists urged to be cautious about research involving collecting bodily fluids 


By Florence Afriyie Mensah 

      Kumasi, Aug. 31, GNA – Health research scientists and other health practitioners have been urged to be extra cautious when conducting research involving collecting data on body fluids. 

     They should consider many important things before proceeding to any community to collect biological samples such as blood, saliva and other bodily fluids from seemingly healthy people. 

      Among the important points to consider are extensive community engagement, participant feedback, and sufficient privacy and confidentiality throughout the data collection and management process for the study. 

      Dr Anthony Afum-Adjei Awuah, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow of the Global Health and Infectious Disease Research Group at the Kumasi Center for Collaborative Research (KCCR), who gave the advice, said this would help increase the technical success of the exercise. 

       It would also increase public confidence in the research and reduce the risk of unnecessary incitement and conspiracy theories against the research, especially in resource-limited settings.       

       He was speaking at The Global Health Network webinar on Ethics of Data Science in Global Health Research: Regional Case Studies and Practical Examples. 

     Dr Awuah, who is also a Lecturer at the Department of Molecular Medicine, School of Medicine and Dentistry, at Kwame NKrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi and a Co-investigator on SeroCoV study at KCCR, buttressed his point with an encounter his team had with the military during the research period of the SeroCoV project. 

      He explained that the SeroCoV project was a community-based cross-sectional study that investigated the seropevalence – the level of a virus in a population, as measured in blood serum, of COVID-19 in three African Countries. 

      In Ghana, the study objective was to estimate the extent of infection in the general population within three major cities, determined by ‘SARS-CoV-2 seropositivity. 

     Dr Awuah said the study team was arrested by the Military in Kumasi for recruiting study participants from a Military base that fell within the study area without prior authorization from the Military hierarchy even though they had ethical approval for the study.  
       He said the team was, however, released right after meeting with the military leadership to explain what the goal was, the importance of the study, the study procedures, and how it went through the needed regulatory requirements and extensive stakeholder engagement.  

      This experience with the military, according to him, helped the project team to see how they could improve stakeholder engagement strategies for community-based studies in urban areas. 

     According to him, other challenges in that kind of research work included dealing with conspiracy theories, issues of conflicts of interest in the informed consent process within households that infringe on the ethical principle of autonomy, and personal and religious beliefs of the participants that disrupted the study recruitment process. 
      The webinar session covered an introduction to the ethics of data science in global health research, ethical issues arising in Academic Social Media (ASM) platforms and some regional case studies from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as Asia. 

        On the panel were Aashna Uppal, a PhD Student at TGHN, University of Oxford, United Kingdom, Luciana Monteiro-Krebs, Data Curator at the Hub Fiocruz TGHN, Fiocruz, Brazil; Daniella Morelli, Associate Researcher at the Institute for Clinical Effectiveness and Health Policy and Dr. Aliya Naheed a scientist, specialized in Non-Communicable Disease and Regional lead at TGHN-Asia. 
      Professor Julio Canario Guzman, Founder of Fundación Etikos, Dominican Republic, chaired the event. 



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