Open Access Open Badges Research article

Recruitment of Yoruba families from Nigeria for genetic research: experience from a multisite keloid study

Peter B Olaitan1, Victoria Odesina2, Samuel Ademola3, Solomon O Fadiora1, Odunayo M Oluwatosin3 and Ernst J Reichenberger4*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Surgery, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, College of Health Sciences, Osogbo, Nigeria

2 Department of Medicine, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, CT 06030, USA

3 Department of Surgery, Division of Plastic Surgery, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria

4 Department of Reconstructive Sciences, Center for Regenerative Medicine and Developmental Biology, University of Connecticut Health Center, 263 Farmington Avenue, Farmington, CT 06030-3705, USA

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BMC Medical Ethics 2014, 15:65  doi:10.1186/1472-6939-15-65

Published: 2 September 2014



More involvement of sub-Saharan African countries in biomedical studies, specifically in genetic research, is needed to advance individualized medicine that will benefit non-European populations. Missing infrastructure, cultural and religious beliefs as well as lack of understanding of research benefits can pose a challenge to recruitment. Here we describe recruitment efforts for a large genetic study requiring three-generation pedigrees within the Yoruba homelands of Nigeria. The aim of the study was to identify genes responsible for keloids, a wound healing disorder. We also discuss ethical and logistical considerations that we encountered in preparation for this research endeavor.


Protocols for this bi-national intercultural study were approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) in the US and the ethics committees of the Nigerian institutions for consideration of cultural differences. Principles of community based participatory research were employed throughout the recruitment process. Keloid patients (patient advisors), community leaders, kings/chiefs and medical directors were engaged to assist the research teams with recruitment strategies. Community meetings, church forums, and media outlets (study flyers, radio and TV announcements) were utilized to promote the study in Nigeria. Recruitment of research participants was conducted by trained staff from the local communities. Pedigree structures were re-analyzed on a regular basis as new family members were recruited and recruitment challenges were documented.


Total recruitment surpassed 4200 study participants over a 7-year period including 79 families with complete three-generation pedigrees. In 9 families more than 20 family members participated, however, in 5 of these families, we encountered issues with pedigree structure as members from different branches presented inconsistent family histories. These issues were due to the traditional open family structure amongst the Yoruba and by beliefs in voodoo or in juju. In addition, family members living in other parts of the country or abroad complicated timely and complete family recruitment.


Organizational, logistics and ethics challenges can be overcome by additional administrative efforts, good communication, community involvement and education of staff members. However, recruitment challenges due to infrastructural shortcomings or cultural and religious beliefs can lead to significant delays, which may negatively affect study time lines and expectations of funding agencies.

Keloid; Recruitment; Genetics; Families; Yoruba; Nigeria; Low resource settings