Monday August 20, 2018

A moth nicknamed as “Tomato Ebola” is destroying Nigeria’s tomatoes

A bucket of toms which was earlier 1.5$ now costs 7.5$. Price has rocketed up to 400%.

Tomato farms, Wikimedia commons

Nigeria is known for its top class tomatoes. Tasty and juicy tomatoes are part of nearly every dish in Nigeria. A state government in Nigeria has declared a state of emergency due to the substantial destruction of tomato fields by moths.

Nigerian farmers have termed the outbreak as ‘Tomato Ebola’. Tomato is a central ingredient in Nigerian dishes. The scarcity of tomatoes will simply mean now they can’t afford their beloved toms. Nigerians won’t be able to make their favorite jollof rice (a national dish made with tomato paste). Such is the scarcity of tomatoes in the country. Inflation rates are growing and Africa’s economy is getting affected as a result of the moth named Tuta absolute was also known as Tomato Leaf Miner.

The moth attacks the leaves of the tomato plant and the larvae produced by the moth feed on the plants causing a total loss of yield. No pesticides are able to kill the larvae. After 3 hours of spraying, they again come back to life.

Tomatoes getting affected, Wikimedia commons
Tomatoes getting affected. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Northwest and central regions have been affected the most. Kaduna (also called the tomato capital of Nigeria) is in a state of emergency. Manzo Daniel (the Kaduna state agriculture commissioner) said “We have declared a state of emergency over the outbreak of a moth that has destroyed over 80% of tomato farms in the state. More than 200 tomato farmers in the region have suffered losses of more than 1bn naira ($5.02m) from the disease.” A bucket of toms which was earlier 1.5$ now costs 7.5$.  Price has rocketed up to 400%.

Nigeria’s federal agriculture minister has reported that the moth has spread to at least 6 states and is posing a threat to national food security. He also warned that the moth can attack potato and pepper plants.

Governors and commissioners of states are jointly working to get rid of this situation. Kenya has a good advantage on this issue. They use some plant extract to take care of the moth. Since Nigerian experts don’t have the knowledge yet so they are looking forward to Kenya to eradicate this tomato menace. The agricultural specialists are working with Kenya experts to find a proper solution.

Tomatoes production getting affected due to the moth, Wikimedia commons
Tomatoes production getting affected due to the moth. Image source: Wikimedia commons

The heat is on even on social platforms. On Social networking, sites such as Twitter people are tweeting humorous posts about Spanish La Tomatina festival where tons of tomatoes are wasted. Some even tweeted “La Tomatina@ Tomatoes throwing party in Spain. If only these guys know the price of Tomatoes in Nigeria today…”


-by Pritam

Pritam is pursuing engineering and is an intern at NewsGram. Twitter handle: @pritam_gogreen


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Doctors Discovered Antibodies to Fight Ebola

Scientists are hopeful that that therapeutic antibodies could be the best way to stop this virus.

Health care workers from the World Health Organization prepare to give an Ebola vaccination to a front-line aid worker in Beni, Democratic Republic of the Congo. VOA

In 1995, a patient sick with the Ebola virus, in what was then called Zaire and is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, miraculously recovered from this deadly disease. At that time, when the virus first jumped from animals to man, Ebola meant almost certain death.

Doctors found that this patient had antibodies to fight the virus in his bloodstream even after he recovered.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, invited the patient to the U.S., where researchers cloned the cell that had helped him beat Ebola.

“We brought the person back to the United States to draw his blood and try to clone the B cells that make the antibodies that this person had produced … to then, essentially, clear his virus and, hopefully, protect him against any future exposure,” Fauci told VOA.

Because the NIH scientists made numerous copies of that cell, it is called a monoclonal antibody — in this case, mAB114. It’s hoped that it can be used to target the Zaire strain of Ebola currently spreading in eastern Congo.

Fauci said mAB114 is still experimental.

“We have done a number of tests in an animal model and have shown that when you infect an animal up to five days after they become infected, and you passively transfer this antibody, you can actually protect the animals from getting sick and they recover,” he said.

Not all treatments that work in animals work in humans, something Fauci knows all too well. One treatment for HIV/AIDS that Fauci found worked well in monkeys had disastrous effects when tested in humans.

Fauci’s staff is conducting a phase one clinical trial in volunteers at the NIH hospital to make sure mAB114 is safe. So far, no one can say whether the treatment works, but because of the dire situation in Congo, and the fear the virus will spread in the armed conflict that is going on in the region, Fauci said the antibody has been given to five people with Ebola.

Director-General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference after an emergency committee meeting on the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, VOA

At a news conference Tuesday, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, said he had been told they were doing well.

As of now, there’s no approved treatment for the disease, although there is a vaccine that protects people who may have been exposed to the virus but who are not sick.

Other experimental treatments are also being used to help end the outbreak in Congo. One of them is ZMapp, a combination of three monoclonal antibodies. In 2016, NIH found ZMapp safe and well-tolerated, but without an outbreak, it is impossible to prove effectiveness.

Fauci said another antiviral drug, remdesivir, is being used in patients with Ebola from West Africa, even though that outbreak is over. Scientists have found the Ebola virus can remain in the semen, so men are being treated to prevent further spread.

Also Read: HPV Vaccones are Effective, Especially for Teens

Remdesivir, or GS-5734, is produced by Gilead. On its website, Gilead says remdesivir is thought to work by blocking a key enzyme the virus needs to reproduce itself. Tomas Cihlar, Gilead’s vice president for biology, is quoted as saying, “Based on animal studies, we believe that the compound is able to penetrate the organs and tissues throughout the body where Ebola replicates.”

So far, there are no proven treatments for Ebola. Scientists are hopeful that that therapeutic antibodies could be the best way to stop this virus. An international study led by Scripps Research suggests that antibodies may be valuable treatments against new viruses and could help a patient’s immune system fight the Ebola virus after being infected. (VOA)