The Hyperbaric Medical Practitioners Society of Nigeria (HMPSN) on Wednesday disclosed plans to partner with the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research  (NIMR) in a study that will determine the lung function of underwater divers who have survived COVID-19.

President of the group, Dr Kayode Ogunleye stated this when the Society paid a courtesy call to the premier medical research agency in Lagos.

Addressing the management of the Institute, he said the visit was to seek collaborations on medical research as it bordered the health status of divers who have survived COVID-19 since the lungs, which is a critical organ for diving is also attacked when people are contract the virus.

He said the group is also willing to push forward other studies that will show usefulness of hyperbaric medicine in the treatment of ailments like stroke, bone injuries, sickle cell anaemia amongst others.

Ogunleye said the Society sort for the health sector to embrace hyperbaric medicine and see the possibility of establishing a hyperbaric centre as other countries like South Africa have gone far in such operations.

His words:

“ The purpose of our visit is to see how we can seek partnership and collaboration with your organisation in conducting studies and medical research.

“We want to also want a hyperbaric treatment centre because aside from diving related ailments there are other issues that it can help the country with- the area of bone injury, treatment of sickle-cell anaemia and even stroke.

“One of the biggest challenges for divers is their fitness to work capacity under challenging conditions. Many that undertake in diving activities are expats, not even Nigerians, and we cannot say that we have an industry that can cater for them.

“One of our goals is to draw government’s attention to what is happening offshore so that we can begin to advance the industry in that area.  Our focus is to further develop the subsector.

Ogunleye also commended the management of the Institute for the readiness and capacity they have shown in tackling COVID-19 since it arrived Nigeria.

Responding, the Director General of the Institute, Prof Babatunde Lawal Salako commended the group for being proactive enough to think of the drawback of COVID-19 infection on people who are diving.

Noting that the major pathology of COVID-19 is in the lungs as many people die from breathing complications, he said it was of utmost importance to study the aftermath on the infection on divers whose survival underwater is dependent on their lungs.

He expressed the Institute’s willingness to partner with the Society adding that the only challenge would be funding.

“ It is very instructive to note that early in this pandemic no organisation has started thinking about what could be the drawback of COVID-19 infection on people who are diving.

“Because the major pathology of COVID-19 is in the lungs and that is what kills a lot of people. It is the same lungs that people who are diving are using to survive inside water so it makes sense for us to begin to put heads together to see if after, the lung is safe.

“For us as a research institute, we are always willing to break the norm. It is not an area we have been researching but I can say that in the last one year, we have done quite a bit about COVID-19 such that we should be able to link it to what you now want us to do. I do not think it should be a problem.

“Because right from the initial assessment of people who are diving and seeing the risk that COVID-19 is higher or also look at their lungs and see what effects it has through whatever pictures we can see in the lungs.

“It is an opportunity to measure oxygen saturation, functional capacity, so that perhaps if we measure that in people who have the infection and in people who do not have and who are also divers, we can begin to ask them what they feel underwater and outside it as it were. That way, we would be able to come up with some sort of information that will guide the diver who has suffered COVID-19.  This is a wakeup call”, the DG stated.