KAMPALA- African governments have selected Uganda to host the regional centre for research in nuclear medicine due to its cancer burden and having the oldest nuclear unit in the continent, the government has said.
Mr Elioda Tumwesigye, the State Minister in charge of general duties in the Ministry of Health, said the countries made the decision at the International Atomic Energy Agency annual general meeting in Brussels last year.
Mr Tumwesigye made the revelation while opening a regional workshop for the cooperative agreement on research and training related to nuclear science and technology yesterday.
He said the move would expand Mulago Nuclear unit and establish three new nuclear units in Mbarara, Gulu and Mbale regional hospitals in order to develop and improve research in nuclear medicine.
Mr Tumwesigye said nuclear medicine was very crucial given the rising cases of cancers yet developing countries are still lagging behind in its uptake.
“Uganda ratified and passed the Atomic law in 2008 which allows us to carry out studies in the non-dangerous areas of nuclear science like human health, agriculture and research in water,” said, adding that the African Development Bank already has the budget to set up the centre and train experts.
The minister said Uganda was already hosting the Virtual University for Cancer Control and a Bill is before Cabinet for cancer control and treatment.
According to Dr Zeridah Muyinda, the head Mulago Nuclear unit, studies in nuclear medicine in Uganda started in 1967 but the unit which has proved crucial today, has been underfunded and understaffed.
“We receive between 1,500 and 2,000 patients per annum who need diagnosis for tumors, cancers, bones, renal and cardiac diseases but unfortunately, we lack the staffing,” she said.
She said the science involves the use of atoms which are administered into human bodies through the mouth or injections to locate the diseased internal organs which help medics to prescribe treatment.
“These atoms have a nucleus which uses its own energy to look out for traumas, metabolic diseases, cardiac problems once it enters the human body. It helps medical workers locate precisely the diseased body part,” she said.